“The increasing global demand for fish over the past several decades has increased the pressure to harvest more and more fish”
-Professor James L. Anderson-
Fish protein is a staple source of our daily protein needs in Nigeria; it is not possible to overemphasize the significance of fish to human population; humans have utilized fish protein as a food source, it constitutes a vital dietary element.
According to a UNDP report (2015), aquaculture contributed 31 percent of the total fisheries production which was estimated 1027000 tonnes while marine catches contributed 36 per cent and inland water catches 33 percent. Fishery sector contributed about 0.5 percent on national GDP in 2015. From 21700 tonnes in 1999, aquaculture production has grown steadily to 316700 tonnes in 2015 according to the government report. Catfish, typically grown ponds and tanks, is the most farmed species in Nigeria, constituting over half of the total aquaculture production by volume. In 2012, 13627 people were reportedly employed in aquaculture (2% were Women).
According to James W. Orr, Research Zoologist, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, “Fishes are an important source of protein for millions of people worldwide. Since the early 1970s, 70 to 100 million metric tons of fish are caught each year for food. People consume about 70 percent of fish caught, and nearly 30 percent are used as animal feed that helps produce other forms of protein. Fish protein represents about 25 percent of the total animal protein consumed by the world’s population, second only to beef.”
In 2019, agriculture contributed around 21.91% of GDP, which outweighs oil which contributed 8.93 percent of the total real GDP in June 2020. However, Nigeria has seen its food demand increased exponentially as its national population grew in a geometrical progression. The need to ensure food availability and sufficiency is germane; this is partly to narrow the yawning gap or supply deficits and to curtail hunger and the attendant pressures which may lead to economic crisis and its concomitants.
While addressing the governors of the coastal states and the press in September, 2020 in Abuja the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said, Nigeria import fish worth 1.2 billion dollars annually. He further stated that, the current fish production stood at 0.8 million tons while the demand was 2.7 million tons, giving a deficit of 1.9 million tons. The huge demand deficit has risked demand-pull inflation in the fish market making fish expensive and a missing ingredient in the menu of many poor Nigerians.
This is a conundrum to the demand and supply chain and a big opportunity for farmers to increase production capacity and for government and individuals to develop capacity through skill development/increased investment and take advantage of the shortages to create wealth by reconciling the demand deficit. The fish supply is not sufficient to meet market demand, this is a basic reality.
Overfishing, water pollution or habit destruction, climate change and warmer sea temperatures are factors responsible for depopulation of the fish stock.
The fish farming project in Kaura Constituency was necessitated by the viability of the business, suffice that it was a demand-pushed initiative. By and large, it is an attempt to close the gap in our daily fish demands and to encourage local content development thereby discouraging import. Human capital development is key in my developmental strategy simply because of its resourcefulness and impact.
In all ramifications, the fishing farming skill development programme is not only timely but, socially and economically coherent because it has the potential to lower the unemployment ratio by providing a source of livelihood. By and large, I have identified a deficit in the market that creates the need for skill development and capacity building.