Fishermen in the Niger Delta have decried the encroachment of foreign fishing trawlers into the Nigerian territorial waters and called on the Nigerian Navy to ward off the intruding vessels.
Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator of the Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa on Sunday.
Ayadi told NAN that the foreign trawlers fished along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean– which was reserved for the local fishermen.
He said that the activities of the foreign trawlers contravened international maritime laws and the encroachment posed a serious economic threat to the country.
The coordinator said that the international convention reserved five nautical miles from the coastline into the Atlantic for the indigenous fishermen.
He said that industrial fishing was restricted to the deep sea, while only the local fishermen were allowed to fish near the shoreline.
The chairman also said that the trawlers were damaging their fishing implements.
“The operation of these big double-decked trawlers is affecting us badly. They switch off their lights in the night and when we run into them our boats capsize,” he said.
According to Ayadi, if the activities of the trawlers are not checked, they will deplete the fish stock along the coastline, because they kill fishes of all sizes, including fingerlings.
“The trawlers are a big obstacle to fishing near the shores. They are over fishing and their nets sweep the ocean floor, damage our own nets and carry them away.
“They select the big fishes they want and pollute the waters with the unwanted dead ones.
“Industrial fishing is supposed to take place in the high seas and not near the coastline.
“The rule is that they should fish from at least 25 nautical miles from the coast, but they have refused to comply”