Following the COVID-19 pandemic, activities in the global seafood industry were severely disrupted. Fish and aquatic food value chain witnessed several challenges such as shutdown of operations, changing consumer demands, market access, logistics, transportation and border restrictions. But, the industry is picking up, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
GLOBAL consumption of fish has been rising, highlighting the need to ensure sustainable fisheries management, according to a report, State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The report projects that total fish production will increase to 204 million tonnes or 15 per cent in 2030.
Similarly, Report Linker, a global research firm, posited that the global seafood industry would hit $138.7 billion by 2027.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic set in, leading to a decline in global fishing activity.
Amid the pandemic, the fishing industry, which comprises open catch, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing and retiling of fish or fish products were impacted disrupting supply chains. Similarly, food service purchasers, such as restaurants, cafeterias and schools, either closed or operated at reduced capacities, as the fear of Coronavirus transmission in public settings affected consumer behaviour.
FAO warned that failure to apply effective fisheries management measures will threaten food security and livelihoods.
Report Linker’s analysts cautioned that corrective measures and policy changes must be made, or seafood, a critical part of food security goals, would become less affordable for the poor under the current scenario.
They were not the only ones bothered. Martins Anetekhai, a professor of Fisheries, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University, is one of them. Anetekhai, who has represented the Nigerian seafood industry internationally on issues affecting the sector, is worried that the pandemic would hinder moves to keep delivering Nigerian fish and seafood to international and domestic plates.
For him, the pandemic created significant, sustained challenges in the seafood supply chain and the challenges only increase the need to enhance resilience for all seafood-related industries in the face of disruptions.
With restaurants and hotels accounting for much of the fresh seafood sales closed, stay-at-home orders would not augment for the sales volume coming from such channels.
Therefore, Anetekhai noted that the market disruptions due to COVID-19 amplified the need for measures to promote the seafood industry.
He has been campaigning for a sustainable fisheries economy balancing effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity. This is in alignment with the goals of the Federal Government for fish and seafood industry in setting its blue economy strategy.
At present, Lagos fishing and aquaculture industry is one of the nation’s foremost export outlets.
For Anetekhai, the Lagos seafood industry is leading in several areas, including a value chain, where Nigeria has the strongest position in human capital, knowledge base, technologies, financing and international ownership.
The state Commissioner of Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, said there was a plan to improve the marine economy and support the fisheries sector to increase production and the number of processors and artisans along the value chain.
As it had happened in virtually every industry, she added that the seafood sector faced massive declines in the months following the emergence of the pandemic.
Ms Olusanya said the state produces about 174,000 metric tonnes (MT) of fish yearly while the demand stood at over 400,000 MT, hence the need to address the huge deficit of over 226,000metric tonnes.
She said the additional 60,000 MT of fish would include both fingerlings and table size production to what already exist in Lagos.
“The target in terms of production is to increase our production. The demand for fish in Lagos is well over 400,000 metric tonnes and what we are producing as a state is roughly at about 174,000 metric tonnes; so there is a huge deficit of about 226,000 metric tonnes.
“In terms of the target, we just ended our five-year master plan roadmap strategy document, which will be unveiled by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the plan is to cover the deficit by a certain percentage.
“Already, the Lagos Aquaculture Centre for Excellence which was mentioned during Mr Governor’s budget reading states that for the project alone, we should be adding over 60,000 metric tonnes of fish, both fingerlings and table size production to what exists in Lagos.
“Outside of what we want to do with our fisher-folks in terms of them increasing production and aquaculture producers as well in terms of the support, we will like to give to them and create additional farm estates.
“We should be able to increase our fish production by at least 60,000 metric tonnes in 2021,” she said.
Ms Olusanya said with more production from the Lagos Aquaculture Centre (LACE), the state would produce over 60,000 MT of fish over time which would be produced by registered fishermen, artisanal fishermen and the Lagos Aquaculture Centre.
“For the LACE alone, it should be over 60,000 metric tonnes. That is obviously over a two- to three-year period for the project to fully come to life. Within the first year, we should be able to get 20,000 metric tonnes.
“From our fishermen and those in the aquaculture subsector, we should be able to get a minimum of 40,000 metric tonnes extra, so we are looking towards an additional 60,000 metric tonnes for 2021 and subsequent years,” she said.
“We have partnered with some private financial institutions and right now registrations are ongoing in some fishing locations in the five divisions of the state such as Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Lagos Island and Ikeja.
“The private financial institution is registering youths in Ikeja. We are concentrating on the youth because they will take over from the aging fisher-folks who do not have records that we can trace back to them in terms of capturing and empowerment,” Ms Olusanya noted.
The commissioner called for a unified framework to make the industry more competitive. To this end, the state is hosting its Seafood Festival on December 13. It is billed for the Muri Okunlola Park, Lagos.
According to her, this year’s edition of the festival would focus on the need to harness the seafood potential of the state in a post-COVID-19 economy, adding that synergic relationships for the overall development of the seafood subsector will be initiated with fisher-folks for regular supply of fish and fisheries products during and after the event.
Ms Olusanya stated that the festival is expected to create 150 job opportunities as a result of increased marketing, setup and dismantling of equipment for the festival, technicians to operate equipment and other hands engaged to provide support services.
She said 30 fishermen groups, processors and 10 vendors were being expected to take part in the festival.