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Foreign observers frequently comment that fishing in African lakes, rivers and their associated wetlands is usually haphazard. This is not unconnected with the fact that there are usually no laws and regulations controlling the exploitation of the fisheries of most African inland waters. Even where such laws and regulations exist, they are not often enforced. In Nigeria, the management of inland waters is regarded as the exclusive responsibility of the States to which such water bodies belong. Whereas there is a Sea Fisheries Decrees Act of 1971, as well as the relevant Fishery Regulations and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Decree of 1978, which enable the Federal Government to control, regulate and protect the sea fisheries resources, there is at present no such uniform law for inland fisheries.

The justification for comprehensive inland fisheries legislation has been advanced by the Federal Department of Fisheries based on the need to harmonize the administration, management, protection and improvement of the fisheries resources in inland waters including rivers, reservoirs, lakes and their associated wetlands. Although it could be argued that these waters are within State boundaries and should therefore be subject to State Legislation, the waters usually traverse more than one State. Apart from the fact that fish do not respect State boundaries, migratory fish often enter channels which pass through more than one State. Consequently, action or lack of action by one State can have a profound effect on the fishery resources and fishing in another State. In addition, migrant fishermen often cross State boundaries using unlawful methods to capture fish, and the dumping of poisonous products or industrial wastes in one State, which does not give priority to fisheries, can lead to mass destruction of valuable fishery resources downstream in another State where fishing may be of high priority.

Although all these reasons more than justify the need for Central Federal Legislation, action on the promulgation of such laws and regulations has yet to materialize. In 1984 the author produced a model draft Inland Fisheries Laws and Regulations which was widely circulated to all the States. Later it was discussed and modified for adoption by delegates from the States at a meeting convened by the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research (formerly Kainji Lake Research Institute) in April 1985. The major aspects considered in the draft laws and regulations included:

  1. Composition and definition of the inland water bodies of Nigeria

  2. Definition of ownership of these inland water bodies

  3. Licensing of fishermen, crafts, gears and cold rooms

  4. Fisheries laws and regulations

  5. Offences and penalties

  6. Definition of the law enforcement agencies and implementing agencies.

A few States have extracted aspects from this draft to promulgate their Edicts but, in the absence of Federal Inland Fisheries Laws and Regulations, complemented by adequately enforced States Fisheries Edicts in all the States of the Federation, there is presently no uniform Federal Inland Fisheries Management Policy in Nigeria. In spite of this neglect, inland fisheries contribute about 40% of the total fish supply in Nigeria. Unlike the marine environment which is static in extent, more and more impoundments are being created and planned in different parts of the country for irrigation and domestic water supply purposes. More private investments in fish farming are also being undertaken in inland waters than in the coastal marine waters. Although current production from the aquaculture sector is low, it has been observed that if effectively harnessed it could make the country self-sufficient in fish.

The following section discusses traditional management techniques and outlines strategies which could be adopted by both State and Federal Governments for the effective management of the inland capture fisheries resources in Nigeria.


Scudder and Connelly (1985) have identified two major categories of management and traditional riverine fisheries in the Amazon basin, and also in the Middle Zambezi River and the Kafue floodplains. They termed them inadvertent or unintentional management strategies, such as water tenure, ritual prohibitions, taboos and magic, and intentional strategies which include gear restrictions, closed seasons and floodplain intensification.

Both these strategies are common in the northern States of Nigeria (i.e. along the Upper Niger and the Benue rivers and their floodplains). For instance, in the Anambra and Imo floodplains, flood ponds are owned by traditional communities living adjacent to them. These water bodies are handed on from one generation to the next. Fishing rights in some of the ponds are often sold or rented out to other communities according to agreed terms.

In some northern States, such as Sokoto and Kano States, flood ponds and stagnant pools of seasonal rivers belong to all the communities and permission to engage in fishing is often announced by the “Sarkin Ruwa” or the Chief of the Fishermen who has the power to authorize and to stop fishing in different ponds, and at the appropriate times. This approach, although related to closed seasons and water area, are directed more at protecting the interests of part-time fishermen who engage in full-time farming during the rainy season and return to fishing at the end of the farming season. It is therefore not directed at protecting the fishery, but in making sure that every member of the community has an equal chance of benefiting from the resource.

A clear example of an intentional management strategy involving gear restriction operates in the Argungu Local Government of Kebbi State. Here the use of gillnets is prohibited in order to protect the fishery from over-exploitation and conserve the resource for the popular Argungu Fishing Festival. Fishermen are allowed to use clap-nets and hooks in fishing. There is however, no mesh size restriction for the clap-nets.

All fishing communities in Nigeria believe in fishing magic although not applied as a management technique. Rather, individual fishermen consult native doctors for charms to aid their fishing. Catches by such fishermen are often in excess of the generally observed trend for the water body. Most fishermen taking part in competitive fishing festivals often apply magical arts in fishing in order to win prizes.

Fishermen operating on Lake Ndakolowu believe that a local shrine abhors the splashing noise associated with cast-netting and therefore the use of these nets in this floodplain lake is prohibited. Although this prohibition is not a management technique, the local inhabitants believe that as long as they obey this prohibition they will continue to catch fish by other methods such as gillnets, hooks and traps. There is, however, no mesh restriction on the gillnets used.

A typical example of floodplain intensification is that described for Lake Ndakolowu. Besides the channel excavated by the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research, other channels leading to the previously obliterated lake were excavated by the local fishermen to enhance re-entry of water and fish from the River Niger into the lake. Although this method could be classified as floodplain intensification to increase fish production in the lake, the capture methods designed by the same fishermen, such as fish fences to trap incoming mature fish entering the channel in search of a spawning ground, tend to nullify their original good intention. The practice of draining flood ponds to scoop out all the fish shows also that traditional strategies, whether intentionally or inadvertently, do not have conservation as their primary objective but are directed more towards increased exploitation.

In the Anambra and Imo floodplains, however, fishermen practice some sort of extensive culture technique by introducing organic manure into their flood ponds to accelerate the growth rate of fish prior to capture. This is about the only clear example of an intentional management technique to increase the productivity of flood ponds. This negative conclusion notwithstanding, traditional institutions, if well exploited, could form the nucleus of government conservation and management measures in Nigeria.


The need for the promulgation and enforcement of the Inland Fisheries Laws and Regulations, by State and Federal Governments has been highlighted as the first major step towards the effective management of inland fisheries in Nigeria. Some States such as Sokoto, Niger, Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Lagos, Bendel (now called Delta and Edo), Ondo and Oyo States have promulgated their Fisheries Edicts. Some of the aspects of these Edicts, yet to be effectively implemented are discussed below.

(i) Registration and licensing of fishermen

It has been observed, that the catch or fish yield in African lakes increases with increase in the number of fishermen up to a peak of two fishermen per square kilometre (Henderson & Welcomme, 1974). Beyond this limit, the catch is observed to fall drastically showing evidence of overfishing. It has also been observed that in most artisanal fisheries there is an average of two fishermen per boat, and thus a limit of one boat per square kilometre is equivalent to two fishermen per square kilometre. Ita (1982), in providing evidence to show that Kainji Lake was overfished, pointed out that, with a surface area of 1,280 km2 at maximum water volume, only 1,280 boats or 2,560 fishermen should originally have been registered to fish in the lake. However, in the absence of any management system, there was an influx of fishermen from all parts of the country thus increasing the number of boats on the lake from 1,700 in 1969 to about double that figure in less than two years.

The catch increased with increase in the number of boats up to a peak of 28,639 mt in 1970 and then declined drastically to a natural equilibrium level. The natural equilibrium is being sustained by the annual fluctuation in water level of the lake. A similar upsurge in the number of boats has been observed in virtually all the major reservoirs in the country e.g. Tiga (Ita, 1979a), Jebba (Ita and Omorinkoba 1984 and 1985) and Shiroro (Ita and Mohammed 1986).

Registration and licensing of fishermen, which has been successfully applied as a powerful tool in the management of inland fisheries in developed countries, and most developing countries, is generally frowned on in Nigeria because of the possibility of rendering some fishermen redundant and jobless. It has been observed, however, that most artisanal fishermen operating in Nigerian inland waters do so at subsistence level, rather than commercially, on account of drastic overfishing in most of the water bodies. Fishing in such water bodies is regarded as a part-time occupation while farming takes over as a full-time occupation. Part-time fishermen could willingly give up fishing without any loss of income if compelled to pay licensing and registration fees. Such voluntary withdrawal could result in significant improvements in the overall productivity of the water bodies. There is a need therefore to initiate the licensing and registration of fishermen in all the water bodies in Nigeria if increased fish production and gainful employment for full-time fishermen is to be achieved.

(ii) Mesh size regulation

A detailed analysis of mesh size selection of some commercially important species in Kainji Lake (Ita, 1980a) revealed that only 7 out of 30 species of fish in the lake could be captured with a 5 cm mesh net after they must have attained sexual maturity. The remaining 23 species would still be immature at the time of capture in a 5 cm net. By increasing the mesh size from 5 to 7.5 cm about 14 out of 30 commercially important species would be allowed to reproduce at least once before they were captured. The investigation revealed that the tilapias, which comprised about 49% of the total standing crop of commercially important species in the lake, often attain sexual maturity long before they grow to the size held by a 7.5 cm mesh net. It was recommended therefore, that a minimum mesh size of 7.5 cm be enforced for the Kainji Lake fishery. This mesh size has also been recommended as the standard minimum mesh size for all inland water bodies in Nigeria in view of the fact that the distribution of fish species in most of the inland water bodies in the country follows the pattern of the Niger-Benue River systems and their tributaries. Similarly, a majority of the reservoirs so far surveyed in the country have tilapia as the dominant species.

Minimum mesh size regulation is an indirect method of putting a ceiling on the minimum sizes of commercially important species to be captured. However, since selectivity curves are usually normal, the standard deviation from the mean selection length of each mesh size for each species has to be estimated so that fishermen with a few undersized specimens of each species are not wrongly accused of using undersized mesh nets for fishing. Table 26 shows the standard lengths in centimeters of the major commercially important species captured in 7.5 cm mesh nets and their corresponding standard deviations. Assuming that adequate numbers of fishermen have been licenced to fish in a particular water body, together with their gear and craft, and that the minimum mesh size regulation has been effectively enforced, the water body can still be overfished. This is because if a water body is intensively fished, even with the requisite number of fishermen and the specified mesh sizes of gillnets, the catch per unit effort will continue to increase with the corresponding increase in effort until a maximum is reached, beyond which the catch will drop abruptly showing evidence of overfishing. Effort in this particular instance may be synonymous with increase in the size of fleet used by the registered fishermen. Since the number of fishermen and the mesh sizes of nets used by them have been effectively controlled, the fishermen can continue to increase the size of their fleet in order to double or triple their catch until increase in effort (size of fleet) no longer gives rise to increase in catch per unit effort. Therefore it is also important to control the fleet size of nets used by each fisherman.

Table 26. Standard length (cm) of major commercially important fish species in Kainji Lake (captured in 76.2mm mesh net), and their corresponding standard deviations.

         SpeciesStandard Length
in 76.2mm net ± s.d.
  1Hydrocynus species33cm and above ± 4
  2Hyperopisus bebe30 cm and above ± 3
  3Alestes dentex28 cm and above ± 3
  4Alestes macrolepidotus27 cm and above ± 4
  5Schilbe mystus26 cm and above ± 4
  6Citharinus species25 cm and above ± 2
  7Labeo senegalensis25 cm and above ± 3
  8Labeo pseudocoubie24 cm and above ± 3
  9Labeo niloticus24 cm and above ± 4
10Synodontis membranaceous24 cm and above ± 4
11Chrysichthys nigrodigitatus23 cm and above ± 3
12Distichodus rostratus22 cm and above ± 2
13Alestes baremose20 cm and above ± 2
14Chrisichthys auratus20 cm and above ± 3
15Synodontis budgetti19 cm and above ± 3
16Eutropius niloticus18 cm and above ± 4
17Alestes nurse18 cm and above ± 2
18Synodontis schall17 cm and above ± 4
19Synodontis gambiensis17 cm and above ± 4
20Synodontis resupinatus17 cm and above ± 4
21Tilapia1 species15 cm and above ± 3

1 Here, as elsewhere in this text, this category includesOreochromis and Sarotherodon

iii) Gear size regulation

In order to guard against undue increase in fishing effort, gear size regulations (or quota regulations) must be enforced along with mesh size. The major factors to be considered in gear size regulation, given the stipulated number of boats or fishermen to be allowed to fish a water body and the specified minimum mesh size to be used, are the potential fish yield of the water body, and the observed yield at the time the quota regulation is to be enforced. The potential fish yield can easily be extrapolated from Henderson and Welcomme's (1974) model if the Morpho-Edaphic-Index (MEI) of the water body is estimated. The observed yield can be computed from the catch statistics of the commercial fishery of the water body in question.

Using Kainji Lake as an example, the potential fish yield for the lake was estimated to be approximately 10,000 mt a year under adequate management. In a quota system the potential yield should be shared among the expected number of boats to be registered to fish in the lake. In the case of Kainji Lake, the number equivalent to the surface area of this reservoir in km2 is about 1,280 boats. In terms of quota therefore, each boat would be expected to land approximately 7,813 kg of fish a year or 26.1 kg daily, fishing for a minimum of 300 days a year.

The nearest catch record to that expected was recorded between 1969 and 1970, when the annual mean total fish landings per boat were estimated at 9.4 and 8.9 mt respectively. The number of fishing boats estimated for these two years was 1,800 and 3,400 respectively showing that increase in the number of boats in 1970 gave rise to a corresponding increase in total fish landings i.e. from 1,700 mt to 28,639 mt but with a decrease, rather than an increase, in the mean catch per boat. The decrease in mean catch per boat was a pointer to the fact that the effort (i.e. number of boats engaged in fishing) was higher than that expected to sustain the fishery at the potential yield level.

Using the regression equation in Fig. 4 a catch of 26 kg/boat per day in artisanal fish landings is equivalent to 17.8 kg/1,000 m2 of graded gillnet fleet. The nearest estimate to this was obtained in 1970 with 16.6 kg/1,000 m2 after which there was a gradual decline in catch per 1,000 m2, indicative of overfishing. Using the above model, therefore, a gillnet size of 1,000 m2 in surface area would have been ideal for registered fishermen to use in exploiting the fishery of the lake. In view of the fact that Kainji Lake could be classified as one of the relatively productive reservoirs in Africa in terms of the observed recorded catch in kilogram per hectare, it is reasonable to assume that the standard fleet size of 1,000 m2/per boat would be best for other inland lakes under an adequate management system.

iv) Prohibition of the use of poison and explosives

In addition to the above regulations, generalized laws prohibiting the use of unorthodox fishing methods, such as poisoning and explosives, should also be promulgated to guard against indiscriminate killing of juvenile fish and waste of fish biomass. Poisoning is often practised in shallow inlets of rivers and reservoirs where spawning usually occurs. Any application of poison in such areas inevitably leads to mass mortality of juvenile fish that are the most dominant age group in these vegetated inshore areas. Most adult fish move out into deeper waters to avoid the poisoned area. In view of the fact that the effect of the poison diminishes with increase in the water volume, usually few or no adult fish are killed by this method.

Apart from the mass destruction of juvenile fish, poisoning should be prohibited because most of the fish killed by this method are often only recovered on the second or third day after the application of the poison and are therefore not fit for human consumption.

Explosives are often used in deeper water to kill big fish and therefore do not lead to mass destruction of juvenile fishes, as observed in Oguta Lake (Ita and Balogun, 1983). This practice should, however, also be prohibited because it can lead to large scale wastage of fish. The sudden shock caused by the explosion results in the rupture of the swim bladder, thus reducing the buoyancy of the fish in water. Most of the fish killed by explosives sink to the bottom of the lake and would require diving to recover them. The fishermen who use explosives often dive to pick up fish from the bottom of the lake but recovery of the fish must be negligible because of their inability to search for reasonably long periods under water.

Fish caught with explosives can easily be identified in the market because of the mutilations on their bodies caused by the explosion.

v) Fishing with electricity

Prohibition of fishing with electricity may not be necessary at this stage of our technological development in Nigeria since our local fishermen may never be in a position to use this method, which is mostly used for research purposes. It has also been successfully applied commercially in developed countries. Both poisoning with rotenone and electro-fishing have been used by the Institute for experimental data collection.

vi) Closed season and area

Specific study may be necessary in order to determine the particular area or season to be closed to fishing before regulations are framed. In almost all cases, areas to be closed to fishing are usually the spawning ground of most fishes e.g. shallow floodplain areas of lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Decaying organic matter is the major food of all juvenile fishes and most of the adults. This organic matter also enriches the nutrients in the water giving rise to the production of more food organisms. In addition to providing food, the flooded swamps or bush also provide cover for young fish during their early development, thus protecting them from open predation by carnivores. Such areas are specific to each lake and should be carefully identified before enforcing regulations. The same areas should be closed to fishing during the peak breeding season which often corresponds with the period of the high flood.


The seasonal nature of the fishery in most floodplains and swamps of the rivers in Nigeria has been highlighted earlier, particularly those in the northern parts of the country where most rivers are seasonal. Laws and regulations applicable to lakes, reservoirs and major perennial rivers may be difficult to enforce in floodplains and swamps where the fishermen apply varied fishing methods and gears to catch migratory fish.

At the end of the dry season, fish are widely distributed in all parts of these areas, in deep and shallow pools of water. With the onset of the flood waters, the rivers overflow their banks and most migratory spawners move into the floodplains to spawn in shallow quiet waters. This season coincides with the farming season in all parts of the country, and although fishing activity is considerably reduced in most areas, some full-time fishermen engage in fishing even at this period using assorted gears and methods such as traps, gillnets, hooks, fish fences etc. to catch adult spawners. Because of the relatively low fish catch during high flood, this period is closed to fishing in many communities with fishing traditions. It would therefore be easy to enforce a minimum mesh size regulation with emphasis on gillnets at this season. The use of fish fences to trap migratory spawners should be banned, but the enforcement of a closed season may not be easily applied except where the local communities traditionally practice such a method.

With the onset of the dry season and flood recession both adult and juvenile fish attempt to leave the floodplain and return to the river channel. It is during this period that they are captured in large numbers. This season corresponds with the open fishing season among all the communities and it also coincides with the end of the farming season.

Later in the dry season, the swamps become isolated and the water level gradually falls, exposing most of the adult and juvenile fish to capture. Fishermen move from pool to pool virtually emptying shallow pools of their fish. Most fish escape capture in the deeper pools. It is not practicable to restrict the capture of small fish during this season since, in most cases, they will die naturally through exposure with the gradual desiccation of the pools. Fishery Edicts could, however, be enforced in larger floodplain lakes and pools to conserve the species for the following spawning season. Most of the highly vegetated swamps are naturally protected against over-exploitation by their thick vegetation cover. Prohibition of the use of gillnets below the minimum recommended mesh should be enforced in all large bodies of water within the floodplain. Restriction on the mesh size of clap-nets may be overlooked on account of the inherent limitation of this capture method. Its effectiveness, as observed during fishing festivals, is dependent on the congregation of fishermen in a pool, all using clap-nets, and leaving no escape route for any fish in the pool. Even then, only shallow pools can be fished out since the effectiveness of the clap-net is reduced once the water level gets above the waist of the fisherman, and more so when he is forced to operate it while swimming.

Most of the floodplain fishing communities own communal seine-nets of graded sizes ranging from small to large mesh. In view of the destructive effects of these large communal seine-nets, the minimum codend mesh should also be enforced as stipulated in the edict. The introduction of assorted fish poisons to the pools should also be forbidden since the impact of such application could lead to mass mortality of the fish, both in temporary and permanent pools.

The construction of fish fences for trapping migratory spawners, and fish returning to the main channel of the rivers through back-waters, should be prohibited. These barriers have been observed to be abandoned after the fishing season and could constitute obstacles to migratory spawners during subsequent breeding seasons.

It is difficult to determine the number of fishermen to be registered on floodplains of seasonal and perennial rivers. However, if all the control measures are adequately enforced, and adequate annual fishing licence fees imposed, it is believed that only serious fishermen would be willing to pay for registration.

In summary therefore, lake, river, floodplain and swamp fisheries can be depleted as a result of indiscriminate exploitation by unrestricted numbers of fishermen using gillnets and dragnets without restriction to the stipulated minimum mesh size in the edict. Depletion can also be caused by the application of fish poison in temporary and permanent pools of water, and through unrestricted draining of pools and erection of permanent barriers to trap migratory fishes. Problems relating to draining of pools and erection of barriers may be localized in nature and could be overlooked in the national laws, but the States are expected to include in their edicts all localized factors that could lead to the depletion of fish stocks in their various localities.


Some of the major causes of stock depletion have been discussed above. These factors must be taken into consideration in the fisheries edict if the fishery is to be protected. A typical State Fisheries Edict in Nigeria reads:

  1. No fisherman shall:

    1. Catch any of the freshwater fish species below the size specified in Schedule I of this Edict.

    2. Fix stationary fishing structures across the river for the purpose of cultivating, culturing or propagating fish.

  2. No person shall take from or destroy any fish within the water bodies by any of the following methods:

    1. The use of any explosive substance or electricity

    2. The use of any poisonous or noxious matter

    3. The use of gillnet or drawnet of less than 3 inches or 7.62 cm mesh size

    4. The use of clapnet, castnet or any webbing traps of less than 2 inches or 5.1 cm mesh size

    5. Lift net of not less than 1.5 inches or 3.8 cm mesh size.

  3. No person shall:

    1. Preserve fish by use of insecticide or other toxic chemical

    2. Transport, display or sell fish under unhygienic conditions.

  4. No person shall fish within the territorial waters of the State unless he obtains a licence so to do.

The Edict goes on to elaborate on the licensing procedures and fees and on penalties for committing any of the offenses stipulated. With the exception of a few omissions, of some factors likely to cause fish depletion such as barriers for capturing migratory species and draining of pools to crop all the fish, the edict could be said to be fairly comprehensive and easy to understand by local fishermen if translated into the local languages.

There are however some lapses and contradictions in the Edict which could cause problems during enforcement. These are discussed below.

i) Fish size stipulation and mesh size limitation

Schedule I of the Edict outlines ten species with stipulated sizes for capture as follows:


FishLength in cm
1. Lates niloticus20 cm and above
2. Gymnarchus niloticus35
3. Heterobranchus sp.30
4. Hydrocynus sp.30
5. Hyperopisus sp.30
6. Citharinus sp.23
7. Distichodus sp.22
8. Tilapia sp.12
9. Heterotis sp.30
10. Bagrus sp.30

In view of the fact that the Edict permits the use of assorted fishing gears with varied mesh sizes ranging from 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) to 3 inches (7.62 cm) the listing of the unit sizes of the different species for capture could cause problems during implementation. A fisherman caught with undersized fish captured with either clapnet of 2 inch mesh or lift-net of 1.5 inch mesh could be rightly fined by the law enforcement agents who possibly do not know much about the selectivity of these gears. The clapnet, gillnet and dragnet of similar mesh sizes are likely to catch fairly uniform sizes of fish. However, as earlier discussed above, clapnets have limitations in use and should either be exempted from the minimum mesh size stipulation or fixed along with gillnets and dragnets at 3 inch mesh size (minimum) to avoid complications with the fish size stipulation.

Similarly, fishermen using lift-nets along the Niger and Benue Rivers use a minimum of 3 mm mesh size to catch freshwater sardines (clupeids). The stipulation of 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) eliminates this group of fishermen as was observed in one of the northern States. Another controversial net was the “Malian” open water seine-net introduced by fishermen from Mali for catching clupeids in Kainji Lake and along the Upper Niger. This net, popularly called “Dala” net, is made of mosquito netting material with 3 mm mesh. It has a head rope of 100 – 150 metres with a depth of about 5 metres. The head rope is fitted with floats made of haffia bamboo poles at about 15 cm intervals. The foot rope consists of rolled nylon netting without sinkers. The net is operated by two canoes in open water as an open water seine-net or hauled to the shore with about five or more fishermen in each canoe. Catches from this net consist of about 90% clupeids when operated in open water and less than 80% clupeids when operated along the shore. Other species identified in the catch included juveniles of Alestes, Schilbe, Eutropius, Synodontis, Tilapia, Labeo etc.

The “Dala” net, although controversial among riverine communities, and even among Lake Kainji fishing communities, was identified as a new technology for catching clupeids in the open water of Lake Kainji where the “Atalla” lift-net fishermen cannot operate on account of wave action. Its operation was recommended for Lake Kainji where the catch was over 90% clupeids. It is important therefore for all the gears used in any particular State to be identified and indicated in the edict to avoid subsequent controversy after the promulgation of the edict.


One of the most neglected aspects of fisheries in Nigeria is resource surveys of inland waters. There has not been any systematic survey of inland fisheries resources for the past fifteen years. The last nationwide survey of artisanal fisheries was conducted in 1976 with the assistance of FAO. Since then further attempts to update the records have been frustrated by inadequate funding. Recently, the assistance of FAO has again been sought for a national fisheries statistics survey. The responsibility for updating the national fisheries statistics rests with the Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The FAO has recently sent a consultant to appraise the current status of statistics collection in the country.

The consultant expressed the view that too few enumerators are engaged by the FDF in each State, and hence the quantity of data collected is low and not adequately representative of the variety of fishing environments (e.g. lakes, rivers, floodplains etc.). He recommended that the FDF should liaise with the States Agricultural Development Projects (sponsored by the World Bank) who have engaged more field staff already involved in fisheries statistical data collection. This will ensure more accurate and continuous data collection after the major commissioned survey to be carried out with the assistance of the FAO. Some States Fisheries Departments also have enumerators in most of their Local Government areas, but they lack the necessary training for accurate statistical collection.

The Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) is currently being funded by the World Bank to conduct surveys and studies of the fisheries resources of the inshore coastal waters. The Institute is to establish a Resource Survey and Monitoring Unit (RSMU) which will conduct surveys and monitoring of the coastal and brackish water fishery resources on a continuing basis. The FDF is also funded by the World Bank to establish a Monitoring Control and Surveillance Unit within the 200 nautical miles of the EEZ, conduct a census of fishing vessels and collect primary fishery statistics on the artisanal fisheries of the coastal region. No such assistance has been extended to inland waters. There is, therefore, a need to extend similar operations to all inland waters, preferably with the collaboration of the National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research whose experience in frame surveys (FS) and catch assessment surveys (CAS) of inland fisheries is still outstanding.

In view of the fact that the States are required to promulgate and enforce their edicts, each State is expected to set up a surveillance unit to enforce different aspects of the Edict such as licensing and mesh and gear size regulations. It has been proposed that each State should set up a separate Inspectorate Unit of Fishery Guards for the enforcement of the edict through a Resource Monitoring, Control and Surveillance System. Inspectorate Zones are to be set up under the control of an Area Fisheries Guard and an Assistant Guard per unit number of fishermen in each zone or Local Government Area. These are to be supervised by Area/Block Fisheries Supervisors who would report offences directly to the Zonal Fisheries Officers.

Unlike the Forestry Department with Forest Guards, there are unfortunately no Fisheries Guards currently in the Nigerian Fisheries System. This category of staff is urgently needed in the RSMU Unit for effective implementation of the State Edicts.

Often, in States that have promulgated their Fisheries Edicts, field extension staff are used to enforce them, collect licensing fees as well as fisheries statistics records. Extension duties are often concerned with fishery development efforts by way of demonstration and training of fishermen. The combination of edict enforcement and licensing with extension duties creates friction between the fishermen and their extension operators since edict enforcement and licensing are often unpopular with the fishermen. The two duties should therefore be separated. Whereas the Control and Surveillance Unit, which is revenue yielding, could be self sustaining, the extension unit does not generate revenue and is therefore wholly supported by government subvention.

Table 27. Financial requirements for establishing a fishery inspectorate unit in a State in Nigeria (in US Dollars)

Capital Input Amount US$ 
Outboard Engines (20) 20.000 
Motor cycles (20) 20,000 
Boats (20) 10,000 
Weighing balance (20) 1,000 
Miscellaneous equipment   1,000 
Recurrent Cost   
Wages (20 guards and 20 assistants) 10,000 
Allowances 15,000 
Vehicle and fuel, maintenance and running costs 10,000 
Miscellaneous expenses 5,000 
Printing and Publication   5,000 
Grand Total Expenditure 97,000 
Projected Revenue   
Licensing of 10,000 fishermen at $10.00/year $100,000 
Summary of Projected Cost/Benefit (US Dollars)   
Annual ProjectionYear 1Year 2Year 3

A typical cost benefit analysis of an Inspectorate Unit with about 20 guards and 20 assistant guards is shown in Table 27.

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