Attacks on fishing trawlers in Nigerian waters had a devastating effect on the Nigerian Fishing Industry in recent years, which also boils down to a loss for the Nigerian economy. A vicious circle is created where desperate fishermen are themselves driven to marine crimes through unemployment and loss of income, equipment and boats. Fishermen also often loose their lives during attacks. Due to the threat of attacks fishing grounds in certain areas became inaccessible.
Piracy: Nigerian Fishing Industry at Risk
Recently two studies by Nigerian scholars made use of piracy statistics on fishing vessels in Nigerian waters. The first is by Eyo Ambrose and Sampson Nwaka and the second by Omovigho Cynthia Brume-Eruagbere. Both were published in 2017.
In the Ambrose - Nwaka study Nigerian Trawlers Owners Association (NITOA) data for 2003 to 2013 was used and in the Brume-Eruagbere study Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) data for 2013 to 2016 was utilized. The only year attacks were fully recorded on fishing vessels in Nigerian waters by NIMASA was 2013. Only one other attack was recorded in the dataset after 2013. The two datasets have the year 2013 in common and when combined paint an interesting picture of the situation at the time.
The NIMASA dataset is based on piracy distress calls. 58 attacks and failed attacks on fishing vessels were reported in 2013. These attacks were mainly attacks on three different companies, possibly because they were the only three companies reporting attacks. Some vessels recorded more than one attack over the period. Four other attacks not recorded in the database were reported in other sources which brought the total to 62 for the year. 110 attacks were recorded in the NITOA dataset in 2013. This seems plausible as the three companies that did report incidents to NIMASA collectively owns 37% of Nigerian fishing vessels.
According to the Ambrose - Nwaka study several fishing companies are not currently operational with only eight in 40 companies in operation or 122 out of 250 fishing trawlers. They argue that the Nigerian fishing industry could collapse if this trend continues.
According to the Ambrose - Nwaka study the following fishing areas are affected:
Lagos to Lekki Axis
Escravos/Forcados/Ramos/Dodo - Attacks became more violent as sophisticated weapons increased. The Ramos - Escravos River is the access and escape route for pirates to the open sea.
Fish town/Brass/Bartholomew/Barbara - Lawlessness and lack of security made this a no go area for fishermen.
Sombreiro/Bonny/BOT/Andoni/Opobo - The Bonny estuary is used as an access route for attackers.
Qua Iboe/Calabar/Rio Del Rey
Attacks on Fishing Vessels in Nigeria are hardly ever reported in the media or in any other sources. Only two attacks in Nigerian waters were reported in 2017. There is no doubt that attacks on the fishing sector have a negative effect on the Nigerian economy and on the maritime security situation in Nigeria as a whole. High unemployment in the fishing sector leave men with maritime skills with very few alternatives but to get involved in maritime crimes.
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