The Impact of Sea Robbery on Artisanal Fishing. The Niger Delta Experience

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2018

23 Pages






Theoretical Framework


Result and Discussion

Sea Robbery and Artisanal Fishing

Test of Hypothesis I

Conclusion/Policy Implications



The study examined the impact of sea robbery on artisanal fishing in Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The study is survey based; A Sample of 400 was derived using Taro Yamane sample size determination technique. Questionnaires and oral interview were the instruments used for data collection . The data collected were analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (PPMC). The results revealed that there is a significant relationship between sea robbery and artisanal fishing which implies that the continuing existence of the activities of sea robbers in our territorial waters will result to poor fish harvest because fishermen are scared of fishing in deep waters where there is fish abundance. Consequent upon this, it is recommended, among others, community policing especially hotspots communities along the waterways and creeks of the Niger Delta region.

Key words: Impact, sea robbery, artisanal fishing, Niger Delta Experience.


Fishing is an important occupation of the people of Nigeria and the Niger Delta region in particular. Next to the oil and Gas industry, the fishing industry is a huge foreign exchange earner for the country. Besides this, fishing also provides a great part of the protein needs of the country (Jamabo and Ibim, 2010; Tawari and Davies, 2010). The fishing industry in Nigeria also provides employment and engenders economic growth (Pittman, 2011). However, the activities of the multinational oil companies have so polluted the environment that the fishing industry is in a state of decline (Nurudeen, 2015). As if this is not a bad enough blow to the industry, the activities of sea robbers have added a new dimension to the difficulties confronting fishing business in Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta region. Violent attacks by sea robbers against the fishing industry in Nigeria have caused the fleet of fishing trawlers to dwindle (Usim, 2016). The immediate effect of this situation has been loss of income and unemployment (Terzi, 2012; Wajilda, 2013; Ezem, 2012, 2013).

The activities of sea robbers have impacted negatively on the economy of the Niger Delta region. Evidently, the actions and inactions of sea robbers have adversely affected fishing business as well as other commercial activities in the region. There is a reduction in the fleet of Nigerian fishing trawlers on these waters leading to a huge loss of revenue to the affected fishermen and traders. Both the Federal and the State Governments have instituted policies to tackle the menace of sea robbery in the region, but these measures such as “Operation Restore Hope, Operation Pulo Shield, Operation Delta Safe and, recently, Operation Crocodile Smile”, have not achieved the expected results. Such measures by security agents such as the Navy, Maritime Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, the Joint Task Force (JTF) all in a bid to curb sea robbery in the region have not succeeded in eliminating the problem.

A number of social science scholars have studied the phenomenon of sea robbery in Nigeria (Onuoha and Hassan, 2009; Phelps, 2010; Nicoll, 2012; Dogarawa, 2013; Otto, 2015).These studies on sea robbery appear to have focused more on its effects on large commercial boats (shipping industry), industrial fishing (trawling) as well as the Oil and Gas industry. Although small-scale fishing industry and the likes on the waterways are the major areas of attacks by sea robbers, existing studies seem to have ignored this group of victims. Similarly, available literature on sea robbery and national security such as Onuoha and Hassan (2009), Udensi, Okpara and Oyinyechi (2014), etc, have not established the link between maritime insecurity and the decline in small-scale maritime business operations in the study area. There is a dearth of literature, particularly empirical one, on the relationship(s) between sea robbery and depletion of artisanal fishing generally, and the Niger Delta region in particular. This study, therefore, has focused on sea robbery and its effect on small-scale fishing, which earlier studies seem to have ignored. Therefore, this study fills the gap in the existing literature on the subject matter in the littoral states of Niger Delta.

In Nigeria, sea robbery and other types of maritime criminal behaviour have not only negatively affected the oil and gas industry but have also affected local fisheries (Mpi, 2011; Ochai, 2013; Ships and Ports, 2014) and international trade (Sanga, 2010). Fishing constitutes one of Nigeria’s most significant non-hydrocarbon exports, yet sea robbery and other types of violence have devastated the sector (Perouse de Montclos, 2012). Fishing is the second highest non-oil export industry in Nigeria, and pirate attacks on fishing trawlers have reached the point that many fishing boat captains refuse to sail. Nigeria stands to lose up to US$600 million in export earnings due to piracy threats to its fisheries (George, 2015).

There are no good statistics on the number of attacks on fishermen in Nigeria territorial waters, but newspaper articles and radio commentaries show that hundreds of attacks are launched on fishermen each year. Consequently, it appears that fishermen are relatively suffering the highest economic losses because of sea robbery and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing attacks. Both artisanal and industrial fishermen are often the victims of sea robbery attacks (Ships and Ports, 2014; Zircon Marine Ltd., 2014). Attacks on trawlers show that this industry loses millions of naira each year and many fishermen are killed during attacks. Attacks on fishermen involve stealing their catch, engine, fuel, personal belongings and, at times, even their vessels (Graf, 2011; International Peace Institute, 2014; Zircon Marine Ltd., 2014). Sea robbers also use fishermen as human shield or disguise during their attacks on more profitable targets. Fishermen already suffer the consequences of overexploitation of fish and often cannot afford to replace their stolen items. This has forced many fishermen to give up their occupation, and due to their limited employment opportunities, this has forced some of them to engage in illegal activities, including sea robbery (Orji, 2013).

It is estimated that Nigeria loses about 26.3 billion US Dollars annually to various criminality including piracy and sea robbery (Oyetunji, 2012). Specifically, Ezem (2012) in his report quoted Mr. Joseph Overo (Then President of the Nigeria Trawlers Association) to have raised alarm over the menace of sea robbers, saying “the industrial fishing sub-sector in Nigeria lost in excess of 119 billion Naira in the last eight years in fishing revenue alone”. In his opening remarks during a workshop on “Harnessing the Potentials of Nigeria’s Maritime Sector for Sustainable Economic Development”, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan (represented by the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala), lamented that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has threatened about 600 million US Dollars worth of fishing exports. According to him, the cost of piracy to our economy is unacceptably high. Pirates frustrate fishing activities and threaten investments prospect in the West African Coast (Oyetunji, 2012).

Onuoha and Hassan (2009) have also noted the viability of fishing business to the nation’s economy. Maritime trade is a significant contributor to Nigeria’s economic development especially in the area of fishing business. Ochai (2013) further observed that the price of sea-foods is likely to increase soon if steps are not taken to check the increasing rate of sea pirates on the Nigerian waters.

In a report made available by Leadership Newspaper of 26 February, 2016, scores of indigenes from the coastal communities of Middleton, Koluama, Fish town, Akassa, Pennington and Brass in Bayelsa State of Nigeria threatened to engage foreign fishing trawler owners in a bloody clash over alleged armed attacks on local fishermen in the area. The local fishermen from the aggrieved communities in protest letters to the leadership of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) and other security agencies accused the foreign fishing trawler owners operating on the high sea of indiscriminate gun attacks on local fishermen engaged in fishing activities close to their trawlers. While the leaders of the aggrieved communities claimed that the gun attacks had led to some fishermen sustaining serious injuries and thus being unable to fish on the high sea, some concerned indigenes excused the decision by the foreign fishing operators to procure arms and defend themselves, claiming that the decision was based on increased armed attacks from sea robbers and unknown criminal elements from the host communities (Okhomina, 2016). It was learnt that some of the aggrieved communities accused the Chinese fishing trawler owners of the armed attacks on the indigenes of the communities. But a source close to some of the foreign operators informed LEADERSHIP newspaper that the aggrieved communities have, in the last few months, become hotspots for sea robbers to show their abilities on defenseless seafarers by way of forcefully collecting their valuables (Okhomina, 2016).

Usim (2016) reported that Nigeria's multi-million dollar fish trawling business is in danger of total extinction as incessant sea robbers' attacks have continued to scare away trawler owners and seafarers from their lucrative business. This situation has resulted in maritime stakeholders lament that the nation’s territorial waters are now dangerous for seafarers on commercial ferry boats, fish trawlers and other crafts for fear of losing their consignment and lives in most cases. Usim (2014) further reiterated that the patrol operations by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy are grossly inadequate and unsatisfactory given that much of Nigeria's territorial waters are poorly policed. Only in January 2016 as reported by Usim (2016), dare-devil robbers abducted two out of 14 crew members – the Captain and Chief Engineer, aboard a trawler vessel, MV KULAK IX, off Dodo River in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Despite the fact that much of the cargo aboard the vessel belonging to Barnaly Fisheries Nigeria Limited were not stolen by the sea robbers, the incident frightened other seafarers fishing along the nation's waters as they reportedly fled the sea even without any catch. Economic experts say fish-trawling business employs thousands of Nigerian youths and contributed significantly to the nation's economy between the early 1980's up till early 2000's when sea robbers' attacks were much less (Aderigbola, 2015). But local trawler operators are alleging that foreigners who are eyeing the business are now sponsoring mercenaries to attack them with a view to taking over the business (Usim, 2016).

On the effect of piracy on fish trawling business, Margaret Orakwusi, a former President of the Nigeria Trawlers Association (NITOA), lamented that continued robbers' attacks has forced a lot of indigenous operators out of the business. She further noted that the number of companies operating in the sector in 2005 and 2006 was about 39, but this has drastically reduced to nine by 2014 (Usim, 2016). Ojo (2016) in a study stated that fish trawling is a capital-intensive project and it also brings the much-needed foreign exchange. There was a time the industry ranked second to the oil industry in foreign exchange earnings. In 2005/2006, there were about 250 trawlers, but in year 2014, it had depleted to 124. During its boom, there were about 35 companies operating in the sector but over the years, it has reduced to just nine. Regarding sea robbery attacks, it is noteworthy that most of the attacks are not being reported, probably out of frustration by the owners of the vessels who get discouraged when the reported cases fail to yield any positive results or bring succour (in financial terms) to the victims (Ojo, 2016).

Maritime piracy and sea robbery also imposes significant costs on local fishing economies. According to IMO, pirates attacked tuna vessels at least three times in 2009 as they fished 650 to 800 kilometers beyond Somali territorial waters. One vessel was captured, leading to a ransom payment that exceeded US$1 million. The threat of pirate attacks has prompted many vessels to avoid some of the richest fishing spots in the Indian Ocean. Dwindling catches have raised concern that the Seychelles and Mauritius could face severe economic problems (James, 2013).


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The Impact of Sea Robbery on Artisanal Fishing. The Niger Delta Experience
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ISBN (eBook)
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Impact, sea robbery, artisanal fishing, Niger Delta Experience
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Dr. Adongoi Toakodi (Author), 2018, The Impact of Sea Robbery on Artisanal Fishing. The Niger Delta Experience, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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