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The fishery resources of the Nigerian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Central Gulf of Guinea are exploited by different artisanal fisheries as well as by a number of industrial fleets.

4.1 Artisanal Fisheries

The coastal artisanal fisheries are divided into two major sectors:

  1. the brackishwater fisheries with fishing activities in creeks and estuaries where the freshwater flowing down the rivers mixes with salt water moving up with high tide; and

  2. the artisanal inshore fisheries with fishermen operating in waters of less than 40 m depth.

The brackishwater sector consisting of estuaries, beach ridges, intertidal mangrove swamps, intersecting rivers and numerous winding saline creeks, is an important component of the artisanal fisheries. However, this sector appears to have adequate fishing intensity and its fish catches might not significantly increase with more fishing innovations. But the productivity of the brackishwater fisheries might slightly increase through proper aquaculture practices. Fishing operations in the brackiswater area are conducted from small dugout canoes.

The coastal inshore artisanal fishery is mainly confined in waters of less than 40 m depth. This fishery employs large motorized “Ghana-type” canoes which are more durable on this surf-beaten coast.

The available data indicate that, at present, about 19% of the total national coastal inshore canoes are motorized. During the dry season (October-May) the small dug-out canoes mainly operate inside the estuaries and creeks whereas the motorized canoes fish in the open sea. The rainy season with storms extends from May to September and the rough sea conditions restrict fishing operations of canoe fishermen in the open sea. Hence a number of motorized canoes resort to fishing in the coastal lagoons, creeks, and also in the bar-built and lagoon-like estuaries. In these circumstances, the coastal shallow waters have a high fishing effort during the rainy season. The evolution of the Nigerian artisanal fishery based on Ssentongo, Ajayi and Ukpe (1983) is shown in Table 4.

The Nigerian multispecies demersal stocks are exploited with a wide variety of artisanal gears: set gillnets, beach seines, large meshed shark drift nets, hooks on longline/handlines and various traps.

The demersal target species exploited by artisanal fishing units are: croakers (Pseudotolithus), threadfins (Galeoides, Pentanemus and Polydactylus), soles (Cynoglossidae), marine catfish (Arius), brackishwater catfish (Chrisichthys), snapper (Lutjanus), grunters (Pomadasyidae), groupers (Epinephelus), and the estuarine white shrimp (Palaemon). Bonga dominates the pelagic fishery. But there are modest catches of shad (Ilisha), sardine (Sardinella), various jacks (Caranx spp.) and Atlantic bumper (Chloroscombrus chrysurus).

Table 4
Evolution of the artisanal and coastal inshore (Inland
brackishwater and marine) canoe fishery over the
period 1971–84 (based on records of the
Federal Department of Fisheries)
YearNo of non-motorized canoesNo of motorized canoesTotal No of canoes%motorization
197190 9234 20495 1274.42
197290 5235 36495 8775.59
197391 7326 22497 9566.35
197493 3287 850101 1787.76
197591 9518 240100 1918.22
1976122 63311 704134 3378.71
1977125 25612 187137 4438.87
1978128 12910 117138 2467.32
1979121 21812 187133 4059.14
1980120 51813 205133 7239.87
1981101 43018 712120 14215.57
198285 65619 583105 23918.61
1983109 39020 165129 55515.56
198489 23720 401109 63818.61

It is apparent that the non-motorized canoes operate mostly in the creeks, estuaries and coastal lagoons. But there is no reliable factor for allocating the non-motorized canoes by coastal State or by estuary, creeks and lagoon. Therefore, there is a need for conducting a fishery survey of coastal lagoons, estuaries and creeks to establish the structure of the artisanal brackishwater and inshore fisheries. Although there is no adequate information on number of canoes and fishermen operating in the brackishwater area, past studies on productivity and catch rates from experimedntal fishing appear to indicate greater abundance of estuarine and creek fish species in the coastal that this sectkor has a higher concentration of brackishwater fishermen and small dugout canoes, as well as fish stocks inhabiting the brackishwater and marine ecological sectors.

The creeks. Castnets and also set and drift gillnets are dominant in the creek fishery. The creek fisherman also employ hooks and various types of traps, e.g., the screen in which fish and shrimps are trapped on the ebb tide.

The estuaries. The fishing gears used in the estuaries are similar to those employed in the creeks. But, larger gillnets and fixed gear for harvesting fish and shrimps predominate in estuarine areas, whereas the screens and trigger-hooks are missing in the creeks.

Offshore waters. The sea fishermen mainly use bonga driftnets, castnets, large set gillnets, shark nets and hooks on longlines. There is interaction between the gears used by the inshore artisanal fishermen and the industrial fleets, in the sense that they exploit the same species.

The basic elements of artisanal fisheries in the brackishwater and coastal inshore areas are illustrated in Table 5 and are based on the 1976 statistical frame survey and Kelly (1982).

Table 5
Structure of the artisanal fisheries in the brackishwater
and coastal inshore areas in 1976. Based on Bazigos
(personal communication), anad also on the sectorial
length of the coastline estimated by kelly (1982)
Coastal StatesLength of coastline (km)Fishing units in 1976
number of motorized canoesnumber of motorized canoesNumber of fishermen
Lagos1803 93650214 713
Ogun and Ondo952 7203906 280
Bendel9617 17671863 888
Rivers30050 7572 122124 636
Cross River10516 4521 12799 223
Total for coastal States77691 0414 859308 740
Total for inland and coastal States %100122 63311 704413 832
Contribution by coastal States %100744275
Contribution by landlocked states0265825

4.1.1 Fishing villages and fishing grounds

The Nigerian coastline is dotted with many fishing villages of variable size, according to the number of fishing units (canoes) and number of fishermen. Though many of the fishing villages have been located during previous catch assessment surveys, it is still difficult to collect fish catches and other types of data from some of them because of extremely difficult road and water transport links. This factor introduces biases in the estimation of total national marine catches and fish production magnitudes of various coastal States. However, there has been some improvement in the sampling coverage of major fishing villages along the coast. It appears that the coastal sector between the estuaries of the Sombreiro River and Cross River and also the coastal area between the Forcados River and Badagri/Lagos is adequately sampled. But fishing settlements in the sector between the Ramos and San Bartholomeo Rivers do not appear to be adequately surveyed. Yet, this sector has fairly good fishing grounds for bonga (Ethmalosa fimbriata), snapper (Lutjanus spp.), barracuda (Sphyraena spp.), threadfin (Polynemidae) and jacks (Carangidae) in the dry season. The same coastal sector is also famous for the shrimp and prawn fishery, particularly around the mouth of the Ramos River.

Surveys of a number of fishing villages between August 1980 and March 1985 have enabled the identification of some coastal settlements with a significant concentration of artisanal fishing effort in the coastal (marine) States. Some of the seaside villages are impressive and most of them are located on the edge of the freshwater forest and on top of beach ridges. During the rainy season (May-September) there is reduced fishing activity in the seaside villages because of heavy surf and rough sea conditions. Estuaries and major coastal settlements with good fishing prospects between the Benin River and Cross River are shown in Figure 7.

4.1.2 Lagos State

The coastline of Lagos State runs almost in an east-west direction. There are two long sand beaches separating the sea from the internal waterway system formed by lagoons and creeks. The two beaches are separated by the entrance to lagos harbour. The Lagos coastline is about 180 km long and it is generally characterized by steep sandy beaches, offshore wave brakers and littoral drift. The following Lagos State fishing villages are important and should have continuous catch and fishing effort monitoring.

  1. Lekki

    Lekki is a fairly large fishing village situated about 70 km east of Lagos harbour. The settlement is accessible via the Lekki Lagoon throughout the year. It has one of the most active fishing communities in Lagos State.

  2. Akodo-waya

    Akodo-waya is located 60 km east of Lagos harbour. It is a large fishing village with active fishermen. The settlement is accessible by boat all the year round and by road during the dry season.

  3. Epese

    Epese is a medium-sized fishing village located in the Maroko area east of Lagos harbour. The sandy beach shows signs of erosion. There is an active motorized canoe fishery and beach seine fishing.

  4. Yovoyan

    Yovoyan is an active fishing settlement located on the shoreline about 3 km west of Badagry. The fishing community at Yovoyan is very receptive to the concept of fishermen's cooperatives.

  5. Brackishwater fishing settlements in Lagos State

    There is a fairly large number of fishermen in the following brackishwater settlements in Lagos State: Badore, Agbowa Ikosi and Epe. The lagoon fishermen do not interact with those operating in the open sea, but they make modest catches in brackishwater areas. Hence, also these catches need continuous monitoring.

4.1.3 Ogun State

The Ogun coastline is about 15 km and runs in an east-west direction. The open sea is separated from the internal waterway system by a sand spit with a width ranging from 3 to6 km. The fishing activity in the following Ogun settlements should be monitored continuously.

  1. Ode-Omi

    Ode-Omi is situated on Omu Creek at the southern end of Lagos Lagoon. It is a medium-sized fishing village with modest signs of fishing activity. Ode-Omi is located on the creek side and is connected to Igbekki on the Ogun open coastline by a 3 to 5 km bush track.

  2. Igbekki

    Igbekki fishing settlement is located on the open coastline. There is a spit which is gradually extending into the sea. Igbekki is a fairly large coastal settlement, with an active fishing community, whose catch should be monitored continuously.

  3. Iwopin

    Iwopin is a medium-sized brackishwater fishing settlement located on the Ogun Lagoon. It is one of the centres for National Accelerated Fisheries Production Project (NAFPP). It has an adequate fisheries infrastructure but shows signs of declining fishing activity. Probably due to overfishing the Ogun Lagoon.

4.1.4 Ondo State

The Ondo State coastline is about 80 km and runs in a northwest to southeast direction. The low-lying bank separating the inland waterway from the sea is muddy and liable to flooding. There is considerable erosion near the Ondo/Bendel State border. In these circumstances, some coastal villages of the Mahin flats are temporary. But, there are several coastal villages which are famous for bonga fishing along the Ondo State coastline. The canoe fishermen also make good catches of demersal fish.

  1. Orioke-Iwamimo

    Orioke-Iwamimo is a fairly large fishing village situated on a bank of a canal system (internal waterway) about 50km from Igbokoda (an inland town) where a fishing terminal is being constructed. The canal system (Bendel State). Orioke-Iwamimo is also located northwest of Aiyetoro.

    Difficult conditions of landing large fish catches at this site might force some fishermen to dispose of some of their catches at sea. In these cicumstances, the reported nominal catches for Ondo State are possibly biased.

  2. Aiyetoro

    Aiyetoro is a large prosperous fishing village situated on a mud bank. It has an active fishing community and a resident population of 3 000-4 000 people. This settlement is located at about 35 km south of Igbokoda.

  3. Ajegunle

    Ajegnule is a medium-sized fishing village located east of Aiyetoro. There are about 100 canoes, of which 25 percent are motorized. Membership of the fishermen cooperative society is put at about 40 people.

  4. Other promising fishing villages

    There are other important fishing settlements in Ondo State whose catch should be monitored, e.g., Elepete, Ilowo-Bijimi, Araromi, Zione Pepe and Ogogoro.

4.1.5 Bendel State

The Bendel State coastline is about 96km long (Kelly, 1982). There are three main estuaries: Benin River estuary, about 3km wide at the mouth, with a minimum depth of 2.1 m in the approaches; Escravos River estuary about 2.5 km wide at the mouth, with a minimum depth of 3 m in the approaches, and Forcados River estuary, about 5km wide at the mouth, with a minimum depth of 3 m in the approaches. The coastal area is characterized by an intricate network of creeks. The Bendel State estuaries are reknowned for their shrimp and prawn fishery. The following fishing villages were visited several times between 1980 and 1985.

  1. Oghere and Orere (Benin River estuary)

    Oghere (a medium-sized fishing village) is located on the western bank of the Benin River and about 50 km downstream of Koko. There is a fairly active fishing community at Oghere, with about 100 canoes, of which about 30 percent are motorized.

    On the opposite side of Oghere is located Orere which is also a medium-sized village whose fishermen concentrate on crayfish harvesting, using traps. The presence of other types of fishing gears is negligible.

  2. Ogidigben (Escravos River estuary)

    Ogidigben is a medium-sized fishing village with more than 70 active fishing canoes. The fishermen mainly exploit crayfish using baskets on poles. The demersal species fishery is of secondary importance at this fishing settlement.

  3. Beniboye (Forcados River estuary)

    Beniboye is a large, rapidly developing fishing settlement on the eastern side of the Forcados estuary. Most fishermen at Beniboye fish for bonga, using small meshed monofilament gillnets. But there are some fishermen using bottom set gillnets to catch marine catfishes, shinynose, soles and croakers. Considering the fishing activity throughout the year, the bonga fishery is less seasonal at Beniboye than anywhere else on the Nigerian coast. There are more than 200 active medium and large fishing canoes.

4.1.6 Rivers State

The coastline of Rivers State is about 300km (Kelly, 1982), extending from the Ramos to the Imo River. The coastline forms a quadrant of a circle between the Ramos and Brass Rivers but east of Brass River, the coastline runs north of east to the estuary of the Imo River. Several fishing settlements were surveyed between 1980 and 1982.

  1. Oyorokoto (Andoni River estuary)

    On the basis of number and size of canoes, fishing gears and fishermen household units, the artisanal fishermen of Oyorokoto are undergoing accelerated development. There are more than 250 canoes of variable sizes:

    The target species of an active pelagic fishery is bonga (Ethmalosa fimbriata). Besides, there is a modest demersal species fishery for croakers, groupers and threadfins.

  2. Elembekinkiri (New Calabar River estuary)

    Elembekinkiri is a fishing village of medium size located at the western side of the estuary of the New Calabar River, about 8 km upstream from the Gight of Bonny. This fishing settlement is liable to flooding after the rainy season. Although fishing activity appears to be declining, the local fishermen display a high degree of cooperative spirit. The fact that the depth of the channel at Elembekinkiri is about 8 m deep, while at the mouth the minimum depth is about 4.5 m (reference Admiralty Chart 1863), is of vital implication for fishing operations and navigation.

  3. Buoybobokiri and “Gold coast”(Sombreiro River estuary)

    Buoybobokiri is a small fishing village at the confluence of Heynes Creek and the Sombreiro River. The fishermen at this village exploit Shad (Ilisha africana) using drift and set gillnets. Their canoes are small and less than 7 m long.

    “Gold Coast” is a medium-sized fishing village located on the coast east of the Sombreiro estuary. Because of strong winds and choppy seas, the artisanal fishermen operating at sea must use large canoes.

  4. Brass (Brass River)

    Brass is a medium-sized fishing village located at the eastern bank of Brass River estuary. This fishing village used to be more important for artisanal fishing activities during the 1950s and 1960s. But due to the development of the oil industry around Brass town, many fishermen left fishing and took up “more promosing” jobs with the oil companies.

    The Akwamobugo creek 6.4 km above Brass connects Brass and St. Nicholas River whereas Akassa creek affords communication between Brass and Nun rivers. Brass River is formed by two branches of Niger River (Ekole creek and Nembe creek). The coastal sector between Nun River and St. Nicholas River which forms the axis of the Niger has several coastal villages with good fishing prospects. But the village are very remote from large urban centres and so cannot be easily sampled for catch, effort and other fishery data.

  5. Other fishing settlements in Rivers State

    There are several other important fishing settlements in Rivers State, which are not often visited because of their distant location from Port Harcourt, Degema and Yenoga. The following fishing villages should have constant catch monitoring: Aggi(Ramos River), Ezeoutu (Pennington River), Forupa (Middletown River), Kulama (Kulama River), Fishtown (Fishtown River), Sangana (Sangana River), Akasa (Nun River), and Odiama (St. Nicholas River). Without a proper account of fishing activities for the larger portion of the Niger Delta area (i.e., the sector between the Ramos and San Bartholomeo Rivers), fishery statistics for Rivers State sector would still be biased.

4.1.7 Cross River State

The coastline of Cross River is about 105 km and it runs north of east from Imo River to Cross River, which is navigable upstream to Calabar about 55 km from the sea. The somewhat lowlying surf-beaten coastline area is delimited by hills at only about 10 km from the coast. Hence, Cross River State has a more limited mangrove swamp area and brackishwater area, excluding the Cross River estuary. There are several coastal fishing settlements with adequate prospects for fishery development.

  1. Iko and Okoroete (off the Imo River estuary)

    Iko and Okoroete are adjacent village located on a narrow sandspit which separates former on the internal creek from latter on the open sea. The creek system is navigable to the Imo River estuary. The coastline at Okoroete is surf beaten, making the narrow sandspit unstable. Both fishing villages have creek and sea fishermen using monofilament bonga nets and multifilament gillnets for the demersal species fishery.

  2. Ibuno (Kwa Ibo River estuary)

    Ibuno is one of the most impressive fishing settlements along the Nigerian coast. It is located on the eastern side of the Kwa Ibo River, about 3 km upstream from the river mouth and about 16 km from Eket. To the right of

    the jetty is a large landing site for the mixed demersal species fishery, whereas the landing site for the pelagic species fishery is on the left side of the jetty.

  3. Other fishing settlements in Cross River State

    There are several other important fishing villages which require constant catch and fishing effort monitoring:

    1. Ebughu located on the bank of Douglas Creek of the Calabar River near Oron;

    2. Kampa located on Kwa Ibo Creek off the Kwa Ibo River;

    3. Uta-Ewa on the western bank of a creek, about 12 km from the mouth of the Imo River near Ikot Abasi;

    4. Utan Brama, a large fishing village on the western bank of Cross River estuary;

    5. Mbe Ndoro, a medium-sized fishing village on the western side of Cross River estuary; and

    6. several smaller but important fishing villages in Cross River State (e.g., Ikang, Abana, Ibuot-Itan, Esek-Ewang, Ibaka and Mkpang-Utong).

4.2 Industrial Fisheries

The industrial fishing fleets exploiting the demersal resources of Nigeria consist of the inshore ice trawlers, freezer trawlers and shrimpers. The industrial fleet has expanded rapidly since the early 1970s. The number of inshore trawlers increased from 13 in 1971 to 29 in 1976 and to 52 in 1983. The Polish ice trawlers with an average length of about 13 m make short trips of about 6 days. The industrial fleet includes several freezer trawlers of private companies with an average length of 24 m. These make longer fishing trips of up to 25 days.

The ice trawlers and freezer trawlers operate on the sector of the continental shelf between Benin and Cameroon. They frequent areas with muddy sand, sandy muds, muds and sands of depths of more than 20 m. The total estimated continental shelf area possibly fished by artisanal fleets and inshore trawlers is shown in Table 2.

The Nigerian shrimpers mainly operate in the coastal sector extending from the mouth of Benin River, to the Cross River estuary. The shrimp trawlers appear to make higher catches around estuaries with greater flows. The sectors of the continental shelf mainly frequented by shrimpers is given in Table 6.

The topography of the coast is such that the industrial fisheries are concentrated in areas where access to the sea is easier: Lagos, Warri, Sapele, port Harcourt and Calabar/Cross River estuary.

At Lagos the industrial fleet is dispersed at number of locations along the Lagos channel and Porto Novo creek. Some fishing companies such as Obelawo Farcha, Ibru and Intercontinental have quay and shore facilities for ice plants, cold stores, marketing and repair services. However, most trawlers are based at Ijora which is now getting congested.

The Ogharefe site near Warri (Bendel State) belongs to the Nigerian National Shrimp Company. It is located at about 65 km from the estuary of the Benin River and trawlers have to steam for 8 hours to reach the sea. The Rivers State Gulf Company is based at the Amadi and Kalabi creeks near Port Harcourt situated 60 km inland and with access to the sea by the Bonny River waterway.

Table 6
Estimated areas of the continental shelf which are frequented
by shrimpers, but excluding the coastal sector
comprised of Lagos, Ogun and Ondo States
(based on Ssentongo, Ajayi and Ukpe, 1983)
Coastal StatesContinental shelf area km2
0 – 18 m18 – 91 mTotal area
Cross River State2 8103 5906 400
Rivers State5 20010 89016 090
Bendel State1 2001 4902 670
Total9 21015 95025 160

Additionally, there are fishery terminals at Igbokoda (Ondo State), Port Harcourt (Rivers State) and Ebughu (Cross River State). The three terminals have the capacity to handle about 40 t of fish and 5 t of shrimps per day. There are also facilities for blast freezing about 18 t of fish per hour and plate freezing 450 kg/h at a temperature of -30°c.

The three fishery terminals are of great value, but the maintenance of these existing facilities will require continued commitment of Government to provide the necessary financial support for up-grading the socio-economic status of fishermen.

Several freezer trawlers owned by a number of private companies (e.g., Intercontinental and Obelawo Farcha) operate from Lagos and can make fishing trips of up to 25 days. Sometimes, the freezer trawlers operate very far from Lagos (e.g., off the Cross River estuary). These vessels which have an average weight of 136 t, catch about 2 t of fish per day.

Under the Fourth National Development plan (1981–85), the Federal Government purchased 45 Polish small inshore trawlers (135 m long). These ice trawlers were supplied to canoe fishermen cooperatives under the 50% subsidy scheme. The ice trawlers (“Croaker”) make short trips of about 6 days. At present their average daily catch rate is rather low, but it is understood that such a vessel can still possibly make N 1 000 (about US$ 1 200) per day from a daily catch of about 400 kg/vessel. There has obviously been a sudden decline in catch rates of the ice trawlers because in 1982 the catch per day was higher (800–1 300 kg/vessel).

Considering licence records of the Inspectorate Unit of the Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF), many inshore trawlers operate in Nigerian waters. It is possible that these vessels do not fish throughout the year. It is also almost certain that all of them do not operate at the same time. But these vessels have in more recent years exploited more and more the same inshore grounds which are fished by canoe fishermen. There is a basis for us to believe that the combined effort of canoes, trawlers and shrimpers is becoming excessive. The evolution of canoe and industrial fisheries is illustrated in Table 7. The composition and vessel characteristics of some trawlers licensed to fish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are shown in Table 8. Additionally, the composition of inshore shrimpers operating in Nigerian waters is given in Table 9.

Table 7
Estimated number of canoes, trawlers and shrimpers operating
in brackish water and open sea during the period 1971–84
(based on records of the Federal Department of Fisheries, Lagos)
YearCanoe fisheryIndustrial fishery
Non-powered canoesPowered canoesTrawlersShrimpers
197190 9234 2041326
197290 5235 3642629
197391 7326 2242730
197493 3287 8503339
197591 9518 2403330
1976122 63311 7043029
1977125 25612 1874336
1978128 12910 1173849
1979121 21812 1874448
1980120 51813 2053545
1981101 43018 7124536
198285 65619 5835234
1983109 39020 1658139
198489 23720 4019437

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