Nigeria and other countries in the West African sub-region incurred an annual loss of $2billion from illegal fishing by foreigners, the executive secretary of the Gulf Of Guinea Commission, Amb. Florentina Ukonga disclosed this yesterday at a forum on Nigeria's maritime sector in Lagos.
Ukonga, who announced that this year's second seminar of the Gulf Of Guinea Commission is entitled "The Blue Economy in the interest of Food Security in the Gulf Of Guinea Region", said that the largely underdeveloped and poorly governed state of the coastal region is a major drawback.
She said: "While other countries and regions are reaping the benefits and returns from the blue economy, West Africa, for example, is estimated to be losing about $2billion annually from illegal fishing. Its coastal sector remains largely underdeveloped and poorly governed, which has enabled other forces from outside the continent that benefits more from it, than its citizens.
"Approximately, 57 per cent of fish stocks are fully exploited and another 30 per cent is over-exploited, depleted or recovering," Ambassador Florentina Ukonga stated.
She, however, charged member states to collectively resolve increasing pressures faced by seas and oceans. She also said that the maritime domain cannot be managed individually because of the inter-connectivity of maritime activities amongst various organisations.
"Our seas and oceans are facing increasing pressures from both within and outside the region and it is in our own interest to deal with these pressures through collective efforts. No individual State can effectively and prudently manage its maritime domain. We must collectively, continue to manage the human activities that are negatively affecting our seas and oceans.
According to her, this has made the maritime domain of the GOG a safe haven for illegal activities of arms trafficking, illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking among other types of trafficking.
She also called for cooperation among member States by putting resources together and fight piracy adding that the Nigerian Navy is working hard to curtail incidences of piracy, but they should work in collaboration with other navies of other states of the region.
She listed members of GOG commission to include Nigeria, Cameroon, Republic of Garbon, Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Congo DR, Ghana and Angola.
Amb Ukonga noted that fishing is one of the ways by which the West African Region can take full advantage of the vast ocean resources of the region and improve the standard of living of its population.
While declaring the 3-conference open, director-general of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside noted that the conference which is the 2nd edition is targeted at bringing together experts from the region in order to brainstorm on how to harness the enormous resources in the blue economy instead of concentrating on the crude oil.
Peterside who was represented by the Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr. Bashir Jamoh stressed the need for Nigeria as a country to look beyond crude oil