How Lagos fish farmers lost over N100m to dredging activities

0 65

Chairman of the Ebute Afuye Fish Farmers Agricultural Multipurpose Society, Rahmon Lasisi, speaks to AJIBADE OMAPE on the loss of farmers due to dredging activities close to fish cages in their Epe fish farm

Can you describe the impact of dredging activities on the fish farming community and your business specifically?

My name is Lasisi Rahmon; I am the Chairman of Ebute Afuye Fish Farmers Agricultural Multipurpose Society. Well, the impact is quite enormous; the activities of the dredging company are polluting the water because their dredging activities are too close to us, and we have also let the Ministry of Mineral Resources know that the activities of the dredging company close to our fish farm in the Oluwo Market in Ebute Afuye in the Epe area of Lagos State are destroying our fish through pollution. What caused the incident about two weeks ago was when water hyacinth covered the face of the water and the little space available for the dredgers to stay was where our fish cages were located, so when they started pumping and dredging, the water got polluted and all the fish died.

How long have you been operating fish cages in the location?

We have been occupying the fish farm there for over 10 years and we have never experienced such an incident; the fish farm market has been thriving without any issues; as a matter of fact, the dredging activities started last year and we reported them to the Ministry of Agric, which said it would get in touch with them, but by the time the ministry contacted us, we were told that the dredging company got a licence from the Lagos State Government and it was told to give us a reasonable distance. However, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency was at the farm last week to take samples of both the water and the fish that died, and we the farmers have also taken samples of the water and the fish to a different laboratory to get results as to what happened to the fish, probably by next week the results will be out.

LASEPA promised to reach out to us once the result is out because we were there but the result has not been released yet, and the commissioner for environment is interested in the case and he wants to address the issue by himself. The dredging company is arguing that it did not work on that day but we have video evidence that it was present and working because the DPO of the Epe Police Station was aware of the situation and when we went to report the case, he followed us to the farm and witnessed it all; he even saw the dredgers working

Can you estimate the financial losses incurred by fish farmers in the area as a result of the dredging activities?

On March 13, 2024, I and some other fish farmers went to the Epe Police Station to report a case of dead fish due to dredging activities close to our fish cages; that was the very first occurrence where we went to report at the station and I was asked to value the loss incurred at that time, and it was about N30m in total, but on Thursday when we assessed the remaining fish in the cages, we discovered that all the fish had died and the total number of fish was 111,500 pieces, which are close to 44 tonnes; we have 89 cages in the farm, but the incident affected 80 cages; the estimated loss incurred was N114m.

Have you and other fish farmers attempted to communicate with the authorities or the dredging company regarding the negative effects on your business?

Yes, we have been to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, and we have also had the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency come to take samples of the fish and water for a test that will inform us about what killed the fish; the agency has also asked us to maintain the peace until the result is out. We have equally reached out to the dredging company, which is privately owned, but its men are still working; they are refusing to accept the charges; they claim not to be the cause of the loss, saying it is the water hyacinth that killed the fish; but we have a fence to barricade our cages, so there is no way the water hyacinth will kill the fish, and it was obvious at the meeting that we had that the dredging company is just trying to absolve itself because it came with lawyers and some community members who have no idea about fish farming, claiming that it is the water hyacinth that killed the fish.

What challenges have you experienced with your fish cages and infrastructure due to the dredging?

Well, for the challenges, the water hyacinth is not an issue; it is an annual thing and after about two weeks, it goes, and we have people whom we have employed and pay monthly to pick the water hyacinth covering the surroundings of the fish cages and for more than 10 years that I have been here, I have never seen water hyacinth kill fish, so it is the dredging company that polluted the water, and it is not as if the water hyacinth covered the cages and prevented oxygen from getting to the fish; the dredging activities killed the fish.

Are there any concerns associated with dredging activities that have affected fish health or water quality?

Of course, there are consequences of dredging on the health of the fish; dredging activities affect the quality of the water, which in turn causes the fish to die; that is why the Ministry of Environment wants to take up the issue, but as of the time when we had a meeting, the main aim was to make peace because we have so many cooperatives here and the World Bank-assisted project supports us with some cages, fish, they even built a cold room and cottage houses for us, among other necessary items, but the project, which started in 2019, ended early this year.

How has the loss of income from the fish farming activities impacted you, other fish farmers, and residents of the community?

Now, for the market women in the Epe Market who sell fish, we are the ones they rely on because since water hyacinth has covered the river, no fisherman can go to the river to fish, and even the dredging activities have chased all the fish away; so for those who mush catch fish, they have to drive very far away and they come back the next day; there is no fish in the Epe area for now, it is only we that the market women rely on and by the time our fish is ready, we take it to them in the market to sell. There are no fish for us to sell now; even if we want to start again, the activities of the dredgers will still affect us.

We have only two cages of fish left from the aftermath of the dredging activities and those two cages contain only small fish about two months old that we caught; it’s not like we did not lose the small fish too; we had some mortality in the cages too but the loss was not as much as that of the big fishes, and for we the fish farmers there is nothing we can do; we are still appealing to the government to assist us because the tilapia is a very fragile fish unlike the catfish that is very rugged and can withstand some harsh conditions, and we made sure to alert the ministry to all of this.

Have any efforts been made to compensate fish farmers for their losses or ease the effects of the dredging activities?

Well, for now, we have been told by the ministry that if the dredging company is guilty of the allegations, it would be fined and made to compensate us for our loss, so we are waiting for the result of the samples to come out so that we can know what killed the fish. But for now, there has been no compensation given to us.

What strategies have the fish farmers implemented to cope with the challenges posed by the dredging activities?

We have tendered our concern to the Ministry of Environment and they have promised to work on it; however, there are no strategies whatsoever; we can’t just work in the same place because such an occurrence will happen and it will cost us again; so there is no strategy whatsoever. The ministry sent some representatives from the office of the surveyor-general to come and verify the farm and the dredging company has also been told to give us a distance of about 200 metres. The representatives of the ministry felt that the dredgers were still close to us, so the ministry is looking into it to make sure that something is done about it.

Are there any policies in place to protect fish farmers from the adverse effects of nearby dredging operations?

There are policies but they are not being implemented, even the director of fishery in Lagos was present at the meeting; there is no way you will find fish in a river where dredgers work because dredging chases fish away because of the unhealthy water, but because our fish were in cages, there was nowhere for them to run to that is why they died; so dredgers and fish farmers can’t co-exist in the same water, but I believe that if there is no political propaganda, the ministry should be able to go straight to the point because I am sure they are being cautious because the dredging company pays revenues to the community, local government, the chiefs and obas as well, so I understand that they will not want to lose all that revenue.

What do you believe can be done to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future and to ensure the sustainability of fish farming in the area?

So we have fences around our cages and we also have people who we employ to pick water hyacinth; we also have CCTV cameras in each cage, and we also have solar panels and lights to help the security guard see whatever is going on at night; the CCTV cameras are there to help tackle the issue of thieves and trespassers as well.

Have there been any discussions or negotiations between fish farmers, the dredging company, and relevant authorities to address these issues?

For now, we are looking at maintaining the peace for the sake of the ongoing situation because the ministry has pleaded with us to allow the dredgers to continue their work pending the time when the test result will be out, but the best solution is for the dredgers to be miles away from us so that when they pump water and start dredging, the sand and other particles will not get near the fish in the cages. There is no real negotiation with the dredging company; the best thing is for them to be very far from us so that their activities do not pollute the water around the fish.

What support would you like to see from the government to help fish farmers recover from their losses and rebuild their businesses?

Well, the government can help us with more fish; we need more feed as well so that we can continue our business; we need money, and we are not asking them to give us cash; we have the company that supplies us with fish, so the government can pay them and ask them to supply us fish. We also have those who supply us with fingerlings, the government can also pay them to supply us; we will appreciate it if they can do that for us; we still have cages in good condition, all we have to do is wash them and stock them, then the business can continue.

We also need support from the people; for instance, look at this situation that happened, I did not expect that the community would support the dredging activities instead of supporting the fish farmers, who provide food for the people; if you go to the market women and ask them how they are feeling, they will tell you there is no fish to sell; so from that I believe the whole state is bearing the consequence of this. We also need the support of the government in terms of empowerment of the farmers in the area of fish feed.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More