Women, both young and old, from the coastal communities of Andoni, Kula, Soku, Bellies, Abonnema, Opopo and Bonny in Rivers State, engage in fishing to sustain their various families. On a daily basis, women of different ages paddle canoes in the river and various creeks across the coastal communities in search of fish and other sea foods, such as periwinkles.
But the activities of sea pirates and illegal artisanal refinery seem to have whittled down the desire of women who are involved in fishing expedition.
Mr Photo Abalama, chairman of the Rivers State Fish Deep Farmers Association, said women who mostly engaged in fishing were raped and molested by bandits.
He said the attacks on fisherwomen, as well as pollution caused by artisanal refinery operators, were discouraging women from fishing, adding that such factors were responsible for low production of fish in the state.
“Many factors are responsible for low production of fish in the state. We are into various types of fishing. We have deepwater fishing, which involves trawlers. There is also artisanal fishing, which also involves ordinary fishermen and women.
“Oil spillage caused by illegal bunkering is more deadly than insecurity in the waterways”
“Insecurity in the waterways has put fears on those involved in fishing business, especially women. The pirates hijack and corner the fishermen from women that are coming back from their expedition. They attack them and take away all their catches. These criminals rape women and subject them to all kinds of inhuman abuses and molestation,” he said.
A research carried out by P.T Cliffe and Akinrotimi in 10 coastal communities of the state indicate that young and married women are actively involved in fishing activities on a part time basis when compared to the older ones.
According to the researchers, women are more involved in marketing fishery products than processing or active fishing. They said women were more involved in picking shell fishes, such as oyster and periwinkles at low tide than fishing in creeks and rivers.
“Fish processing in these communities are done mostly by smoking, using a standing oven that can dry a lot of fish at a time. The marketing strategies adopted by most women in selling their fishery products in the area are open market display and hawking, although some sell their catch at landing jetties.
“Lack of credit facilities, poor transportation network and upsurge in criminal activities have been identified as major constraints facing women involvement in fishery activities in these areas,” it was stated.
Some of the women who are involved in fishing expedition in Imo River and Nmirinwani part of Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state said oil pollution was discouraging them from embarking on fishing expedition.
Mrs Janet Nwaeke, a fisherwoman from Owaza, said the activities of artisanal refinery operators were affecting fishing expedition in the area.
“Before now we would go out in our canoes for fishing and come back with big catches, but that is not the case today. One hardly gets any serious catch each time one goes out on a fishing expedition. Many women who are into fishing have moved into other trades. They are discouraged because of the poor catches they make on each outing.
“Also, illegal refinery activities and sea pirates who would always harass women inside the sea have always discouraged some of us who intend to go into fishing business,” she said.
Another woman who engage in fishing at Bonny, Mater Pepple, said environmental pollution, occasioned by illegal artisanal refinery activities and activities of sea pirates were affecting fishing expedition by women.
“In the past, women were involved in fishing; they complement the efforts of the men in fishing expedition, but that trade is dying because of the activities of sea pirates. These criminals attack women who are into fishing, collect their boats, and in most cases, kidnap them. Their activities have actually discouraged many women that have the intention of going into fulltime fishing,” she said.
She called on the state government to secure the waterways by getting rid of criminals and taclikg oil pollution.
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