COVID-19: Environmental group donates food, fishing gears to A/Ibom fishermen

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FishNet Alliance on Saturday distributed palliatives to fishermen in Akwa Ibom to cushion the adverse impact of the COVID-19 on their means of livelihood.

FishNet Alliance is a coalition of artisanal fishing groups across Africa supported by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), a Nigerian Environmental Rights focused NGO.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some 100 fishermen, who also suffered a fire outbreak at Ibeno, a coastal fishing settlement benefited from the gesture by FishNet Alliance. 

The group advocated support for fishermen in coastal communities across Nigeria whose livelihood had been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and other human-induced environmental factors.

The call was made during a community dialogue hosted by HOMEF and attended by members of the FishNet Alliance.

The Alliance also provided fishnets in addition to food items to the Ibeno fisherfolks who earlier this year, suffered a fire outbreak that destroyed their homes and fishing gears.

Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, the Director of HOMEF said that the beneficiaries were selected from fishing locations along the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket, Mkpat Enin, and Onna local government areas of Akwa Ibom.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on movement had seriously impacted fishermen and farmers in the community who had no formal jobs and relied on their daily fishing expeditions for sustenance.

Bassey said that fishermen were essential to both local and international economies, unfortunately were among the most vulnerable groups, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The continuous pollution of the Niger Delta by oil and gas related activities are unacceptable and government must heed to the call for the cleanup of the entire polluted Niger Delta communities,’’ he said.

He said that government must recognise and restore the dignity and rights of the people of the coastal communities to decent means of livelihood as fishers, fish processors and marketers.

“Looking back to the incidence of dead fish along the coastlines of Niger Delta between February and May 2020, it has been traumatic for thousands of fishermen who were thrown out of their means of livelihood.

“It is regrettable that months after shoals of fish died in the area, there has been no definitive statement from government about what killed the fish and what actions have been taken to avoid repeat of such occurrences.

“It should be recalled that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had reported that there were 1,300 oil spills in the Niger Delta between 2018 or 2019.

“It is astonishing that we could have an average of five oil spills a day in the Niger Delta without government declaring a state of environmental emergency in the entire region. This is unacceptable,” Bassey said.

The chairman of the FishNet Alliance in Akwa Ibom, Rev. Sam Ayadi called on the government to consult and engage fishermen in the drafting of policies to protect the aquatic ecosystems.

He said that the consultation would enable government come up with all-inclusive policies that would safeguard their rivers, creek and seas as well as guarantying their livelihood as fishermen.

He called on the government to hold the companies that  polluting their environment accountable for the menace.

At the end of the dialogue, stakeholders resolved in a communiqué that fishermen should be recognised as frontline aquatic ecosystem defenders and should be engaged in policy issues.

They requested that government should delineate marine protected areas in suitable locations and support fishermen to lead efforts to protect such areas.

They pledged that fishermen were ready to collaborate with government in any effort geared toward mangrove ecosystem restorations as that would enhance fisheries recovery in the region.

The stakeholders also advocated that government should put adequate measures in place to help fishermen during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Traditional knowledge of fishing practices including those who help mitigate climate change impacts should be adopted in policies.

“Polluting corporations should be held liable for the harms created and should be required to clean-up their pollution and to duly compensate the affected people and communities.

“Fishermen should unite and engage in further dialogues to equip members with skills to serve as environmental defenders and to take actions to mitigate climate change,” the group said (NAN)

-August 29, 2020 22:37 GMT

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