By Jimoh Babatunde
Nigeria’s first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan has disclosed that the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the government is re- repositioning both the marine and the fisheries sectors to boost the economy.
She made this known at the christening of a new 10.1 million Euro Research Vessel acquired by the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research in Gdansk, Poland onWednesday.
The first lady explained that the focus of the ATA is to promote strategies for ensuring sustainable fish stocks through integrated fisheries management, while promoting aquaculture and improving trade through established global best practices, in overall fisheries management.
Mrs. Jonathan noted that the acquisition of the vessel will boost Nigeria’s local fish supply and further drive the successful achievement of the policy of Mr. President to make Nigeria self-sufficient in fish production, in the near future.
“Nigeria is blessed with abundant aquatic resources with a coastline of 853 kilometers, also rich in fish and shrimps.
Shrimp export is of great importance to the fisheries sub-sector in Nigeria.
Nigerian shrimps, considered one of the best in the world,generate foreign exchange worth over 65 million US$ annually.”
She added “The Niger Delta of Nigeria, reputed as the second largest salt-water habitat in the world, has shrimps that are the most highly valued resource after crude oil.
“I am reliably informed that Nigeria’s deep-sea waters also harbor Tuna and Tuna-like fishes, Drift Fish and large Lantern Fish populations.”
Mrs. Jonathan said the acquisition of the deep-sea fishing vessel named ‘RV Bayagbona’ after the first Executive Director of the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, will no doubt enhance the exploration of the country’s fish resources.
“This deep-sea marine vessel, which we are here to commission today, is one of the many deep-sea vessels that Nigeria will acquire to fully tap into its abundant marine resources. I am pleased to note that this vessel will also boost Nigeria’s capacity in marine and oceanographic research for sustainable management of our vast deep-sea resources.”
Speaking at the commissioning, the Minister of Agriculture,
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said Nigeria has no reason to import fish as the country’s capacity for producing fish is enormous, “so this vessel will allow us to go into the territorial water, deep sea to harvest a lot of resource we have.
Adesina said beyond taking advantage of the country’s fish resources which for a long time the foreign ships have taken advantage of, that the newly acquired vessel we also allow the country to carry out marine research.
“ this vessel we also allow us to do marine research that will enable us to understand the dynamic of the ocean, to understand the diversity of species we have, to be able to take a good stock of them and be able to have better ecological and environmental management of our marine resources.”
The Minister who decried the huge amount spent on fish importation yearly said the ministry is working assiduously at realizing its four year plan on fish sufficiency.
“We are spending roughly N127b importing fish and that does not make sense and what we have planned to do is to have four –five years plan.”
He noted that the first part of the plan is to produce one million metric tons of table size fish that will put the country at 70% self sufficient in fish.
“We can leave the remaining 30% for those who need diversity, but what we will not accept is for Nigeria to be totally dependent on imported fish when we have water all around us and we are not using them.”