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Environment Protection

Bayelsa State: Oil Pollution, Trawlers Overfishing Affecting Traditional Fishermen as Overall Health of Coastal Communities Worsen

  • Modern trawlers overfishing deplets fishstock
  • Oil spill devastes the Niger Delta regions
  • Respiratory ailments, including asthma is now rampant
  • Studies reveal elevated levels of heavy metals in breast milk of breastfeeding mothers
  •  A higher rate of miscarriages among women in oil communities.

Traditional fishermen in Bayelsa State face significant challenges that impact their vocation, as highlighted during a workshop organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in Yenagoa. Among the obstacles identified are oil pollution, incursions by industrial fishing trawlers, and unsustainable fishing methods. These challenges, as voiced by the fishermen, contribute to a decline in catches across the Niger Delta.

One major concern raised is the encroachment of industrial fishing trawlers, which are legally restricted from operating near the coastline but often overfish and catch fingerlings needed for replenishing fish stocks. Additionally, some local fishermen resort to using leaves mixed with chemicals to boost catches, disrupting the natural balance of the food chain.

The detrimental effects of oil exploration, spills, and associated toxins further exacerbate the situation, wiping out fish species and rendering the waters toxic for fishing.

Community leaders from areas such as Ikarama emphasized the negative impact of oil spills on health, reporting increased cases of respiratory ailments, including asthma, due to prolonged exposure to crude and toxic fumes. Furthermore, a study by the Bayelsa Oil and Environmental Commission revealed elevated levels of heavy metals in breast milk of breastfeeding mothers and a higher rate of miscarriages among women in oil communities.

Renowned environmentalist Chief Alagoa Morris commended HOMEF for empowering fishermen to advocate for their environmental and human rights.

He encouraged fishermen to actively contribute insights to inform policy-making aimed at improving fisheries. The proposed State Ministry of Blue Economy in Bayelsa is expected to address the concerns and challenges faced by fishermen, recognizing their crucial role in the blue economy, as highlighted by Senior Special Assistant on Tourism Dr. Piriye Kiyaromo.

IMAGE: The Guardian

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