Tension arose, Thursday, in the coastal communities of Brass and Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa State following an alleged crushing to death of three persons by fishing trawlers in the areas.
The aggrieved communities of Odioama, Twon-Brass, Sangana, Koluama, Foropah, Ekeni, Ezetu communities accused the fishing trawlers of operating dangerously and violating exisiting laws.
The communities in a report released in Yenagoa by the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria ( ERA/FoEN), accused owners of the trawlers of killing, theft of fishing nets and sponsored attacks.
A community leader from Foropa community, Chief Uyadongha Ziprebo, said: “Just few days ago somebody died as a result of trawlers coming close to the shoreline in our environment.
“Two persons from Ilaja in Ondo State, who have resided here for years going about their fishing activities, went out to fish that night.
“And due to the way a trawler was fast approaching their fishing boat, they jumped into the water and; one of them was found dead later by a search team from the community.
“The deceased could just be identified as Funsho for now. I don’t know his other name. Trawler operators have become really lawless and making things uncomfortable for us; since we are all first and foremost, fisher folks”.
Also, an indigene of Ekeni community, John Degbe added: “For sure, the activities of trawler operators in our environment in recent times have become a major source of worry to our people.
“You know we are a fishing people and, once our main occupation is threatened; our life is also threatened. There is a very recent case at Foropah, our neighbouring community; where somebody, an Ilaja man died due to trawler incursion to the coastline.
“They damage our fishing nets, hooks and floaters on the Sea; on the shallow waters. We are not really happy about this and, unless the authorities intervenes; it might lead to a very disastrous levels. Government should prevail on the trawler owners/operators to go back to where they use to operate lawfully and leave us to also live our lives”.
The state Coordinator of ERA/FoEN, Morris Alagoa, said the incursion was a threat to the livelihood and lives of residents at the coastlines.
He said: “The situation calls for urgent intervention of the relevant agencies of the Federal and state government. The law of the Sea has stipulated five nautical miles away from the coastline or shoreline for trawlers to operate.
“Besides, captains of trawlers have been assigned the responsibility of not going close to any fishing gears on the waters; giving a space of over a mile to any such fishing gears in the sea.
“The law also stipulates that captains/operators should promptly report any damage caused to the property of other users of the sea. This gross violation of the law needs to be addressed as it should.
“A brief research indicates that there is an existing law referred to as the Fisheries Act of 1992 or Decree No 108 of 1992 wherein trawling is put at a limit of 5 [five] Nautical miles off the coast or continental shelf.
“But, these trawler operators are getting so close as 2 [two] nautical miles to the coast and denying fisher folks from going about their legitimate means of livelihood.
“Before the further harm is done or the situation actually degenerates to violent resistance by the locals; something needs to be done to halt the incursion into areas not allowed for trawling.
“The Brass and Southern Ijaw local government authorities should, as a matter of urgency investigate, properly document the phenomenon and reach other to the State and Federal Government for immediate action to forestall further breakdown of law and order in the coastline.
“The relevant agencies of the State and Federal Government should take appropriate steps to halt the incursion of trawlers into areas not allowed by law. Apart from the ministries of agriculture, the state and national assemblies should rise and defend the laws of the land”.
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