Lagos — Fishery operators under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA) have urged the Federal Government to bail them out from operational crisis as COVID-19 pandemic continues to take huge toll on their operations.

The Chairperson of the group, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, disclosed that while their fishing trawlers were lockdown in the nation’s back waters, sea pirates were also busy feasting on them, thereby stopping exportation of local sea foods to the global market.

She said that individual companies are currently compiling their specific losses with the hope of forwarding same to government.

The industrialist said: “We have written to the government through the various platforms we all belong to, we have filled all sorts of forms saying exactly how COVID-19 is affecting us and we are also asking for palliatives because the bank loans on most of the stranded fishing vessels are still running.

“Whereby, we are not able to work at full capacity, some may struggle to pay back the loan; some will also struggle with the high interest rates and most of our operational activities are in US Dollar denominated and movement in Naira makes the Dollar more expensive, affecting our operating cost adversely.

“All these we have documented and we want everybody to know the importance of fishing. We are about 200 million in population and fish is the cheapest source of protein and we need to encourage investment in industrial fishing so that we will be able to feed our people because right now over 60 percent of the fish consumed in this country are imported.

“We do not know whether they are brought from contaminated or polluted environment. These are some of the things we need to guard against”, she added.

Commenting, Mrs. Abiodun Cheke, a fishery consultant, said that 75 percent of fishing trawlers in Nigeria did not go to sea during the period of the lockdown, adding that 90 percent of fishing trawlers in Nigeria are owned by foreigners.

Cheke also said that fish imported into Nigeria are well supervised as the country of origin is well known to every player in the value chain.

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