COVID-19: Environmental coalition donates food, fishing gear to Akwa Ibom fishermen; pleads for support

Posted by News Express | 31 August 2020 | 877 times

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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 livelihoods.

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

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 livelihoods have 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.

Speaking, Rev Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, noted 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.

Bassey holds a 2014 National Honours of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) for environmental activism

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

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

According to him, 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 emphasised that government must recognise and restore the dignity and rights of the people of the coastal communities to a decent livelihoods 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 trauma 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 5 oil spills a day in the Niger Delta without government declaring a state of environmental emergency in the entire region. This is unacceptable,” Bassey lamented.

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.

The consultation, he said would enable government come up with all-inclusive policies that ensure the safeguarding of their rivers, creek and seas as well as guarantying their livelihoods as fishermen.

He also called on the government to hold the companies that are polluting their environment accountable for their acts.

At the end of the Dialogue, stakeholders resolved in a communiqué and demanded 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.

The meeting pledged that fishermen are ready to collaborate with government in any effort geared towards mangrove ecosystem restorations as that would enhance fisheries recovery in the region.

They 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 that 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

Source: News Express

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