May 26, 2024

Fishermen list oil pollution, trawler incursion, harmful fishing methods as obstacles

Fishermen list oil pollution, trawler incursion, harmful fishing methods as obstacles

Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa

Traditional fishermen operating in creeks, rivers and the Atlantic coastline of Bayelsa have listed oil pollution, incursion by industrial fishing trawlers and unnatural fishing methods as obstacles to their vocation.

The fishermen identified the challenges at a capacity-building workshop by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).

The fishermen identified the obstacles at a brainstorming session facilitated by Dr Ogechi Cookey, Research and Publications Lead at HOMEF adding that they were responsible for dwindling catch by fishermen across the Niger Delta region.

According to them industrial fishing trawlers restricted by law from operating near the coastline often encroach to ‘sweep’ the waterways by overfishing and catching fingerlings that ought to grow to replenish the fish stock.

They also lamented that some fishermen use some local leaves and mix them with chemicals to boost catch to the detriment of the food chain.

Chief Washinton Odoyibo, a shier man, farmer and community leader in Ikarama, Yenagoa LGA noted that oil exploration and associated spills have wiped out fish species and made the waters toxic to support fishing.

He noted that during oil spill incidents, the booms used to trap crude from spreading and obstruct navigation by fishing boats and regretted the oil firms often abandon the booms even after cleanup.

Also, Chief Mrs Ayibakuro Warder, a community leader in Ikarama noted that prolonged exposure to crude and inhaling the toxic fumes has increased the prevalence of athame and other respiratory ailments.

“The frequent spills in Ikarama have led to a diagnosis of many new and strange ailments previously not common, and women are worst hit because they stay longer in the farms and get exposed to crude.

“The report by Bayelsa Oil and Environmental Commission found higher than normal levels of heavy metals in the breast milk of breast-feeding mothers.

“High rate of miscarriages amongst women of reproductive ages in oil communities was also reported by the study,” Warder said.

In his welcome remarks, Chief Alagoa Morris, a renowned Environmentalist commended HOMEF for building the capacity of fishermen to defend their environmental and human rights.

Morris, who is also Technical Adviser on Environment to Bayelsa Governor urged the fishermen to make contributions that will help policymakers to formulate policies to improve fisheries.

Dr Piriye Kiyaromo, Senior Special Adviser on Tourism to Bayelsa Governor in his goodwill message noted that there was a link between fishing and tourism.

He said tourists often accompany fishermen on fishing expeditions even as they also add to the culinary experience of tourists who crave local dishes.

Kiyaramo noted that the proposed State Ministry of Blue Economy in Bayelsa would take care of the concerns and challenges faced by fishermen who form a significant segment of the blue economy.

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