By NBF News

By Peter Osalor
Because of it's extensive coastline and tropical climate, Nigeria has the potential to develop a diversified ecology for a range of commercially viable varieties of fish. The economic appeal behind fishing is tremendous, considering the secondary and tetiary enterprises it can generate.

More efficient methods of inland cultivationa nd coastal trolling, executed in an export_oriented environment, can spur rapid growth of down-the-line industries. Fishing, by itself, has the potential of driving considerable enterprise development, transforming rural economies and geberating direct and indirect employment opportunities in the process.

Abuja's primary responsibility lies in providing opportunities for export of fish and fish products to international amrkets. Although viable data on the subject is lacking, the aggregate economic loss due to reduced local fish production is significant and needs focused policy intiatives to correct.

The enterprise potential of this sector is made doubly significant by the nature of the business. Fishing relies heavily on small and middle scale ancillary industries like canning, net_making and boat building, while supporting and additional base of activities in storage, processing and marketing. The net scope for employment generation, business development and poverty eradication through these allied activities mke fishing deeply relevant to Nigeri'a quest for inclusive economic growth.

Here are some of the most pressing arguments in favour of a rapid expansion of fishing activities:

I. Aquaculture provides opportunities for optimal land use, allowing areas unsuitable for crops to be developed into economically productive ponds and fisheries.

II. Focused expansion of artisanal and small scale fishing can help turn around rural economies rapidly by generating jobs and sparking entrepreneurial activity.

III. In development_deprived areas and among rural communities, suatainable fish farming can help improve both nutritional and living standard.

IV.  Nigeria's highly diversified tropical ecology makes fishing in brackish and fresh waters almost a zero opportunity_cost endeavour with infinite growth potential.

Early in 2008, the fishing industry in the coastal Nigerian state of akwa Ibom was paralysed in a wave of extortion and boat capture unleashed by sea_borne pirates. The attacks forced trawlers to go on an indefinite strike, bringint the local economy to a standstill and causing terrible loss of revenue to the regional council. While this particular situation was evetually resolved, security remains just one of several momentous challenges restaining the expansion of Nigerian fishing:

' The absence of a suatainable and progressive fisheries policy represents a fundamental hurdle, with lax government regulation routinely forcing small_cscale operations out fo business.

'Populationexpansion in coastal areas is giving rise to over_fishing and unscientific practices, destroying marine ecosystems and threatening underwater environments.

' Organised fishing attracts high capital expenditure in nigeria as most of the necessary equipment, boats, feed, technology and know_how has to be imported.

' Infrastructure deficits severly hamper the starage transport and marketing of fish in the rural areasmaking profitable urban markets available to traditional fishing communities.

Despite specifiv government efforts, commercial deep-sea fishing is out of reach for local entrepreneurs.