Fishermen in Rivers State have cried out to the State government and other stakeholders for help over what they described as unbearable economic and environmental conditions ravaging their occupation.
Narrating their ordeals in a chat with newsmen in Port Harcourt recently, the State Chapter Chairman of the Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Michael Wilfred Owutubo said incessant pollution of the water and creeks is adversely affecting their fishing expedition and catch.
Elder Owutubo said the situation is worsened by the extension of the pollution to the mangroves which according to him, has pushed the availability of sea foods like periwinkle, oyster, mudskipper and many other species to all time low and have become now essential commodities.
The chairman of the fishermen association said as contributors to the growth of the nation's economy, they also deserve government protection and encouragement through laws and policies that will facilitate their business and lighten their plight.
Recounting some of the problems hindering the smooth operation of their business, Elder Wilfred Owutubo said besides those occasioned by the activities of oil companies, the Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the area are also not helping matters.
Rather than properly disposed of the illegal products seized from sea pirates and bunkerers, Elder Owutubo alleged that the JTF usually burn and discharge these illegal products into the rivers which kill all species of fish and sea foods.
He appealed to the State government and the relevant authorities to call these soldiers to order for the sake of aquatic life.
Such seized products, the Fishermen's chairman noted, could be taken to the refinery and, or any other place they could be recycled instead of using them to compound their problem.
Elder Owutubo also appealed to the State Governor, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike to extend his numerous assistance, support and empowerment programmes to their members as part of the State economy by providing them with fishing nets, boats, hooks, fishing gears and soft loans so that they too, will benefit from the dividends of democracy like their counterparts in other sectors in the State.
On the forthcoming general elections, he said their association has over 5000 members, and legible voters and need to be motivated and mobilized to cast their votes for candidates that genuinely identify with their plight.