By Rakiya A.Muhammad
The fisheries sub-sector plays significant social and economic roles in Kebbi State, northwest Nigeria.
Small-scale fisheries are critical for the livelihoods and food security of the coastal communities, with thousands engaged in artisanal fishing, processing and marketing in over 500 fishing settlements.
According to the State Ministry of Animal Health and Fisheries, “about 150km of the River Niger traverses Kebbi State, with an estimated surface area of 87,500 ha. In addition, 50,000 ha of the Kainji lake (representing over half of its area) is in Kebbi State.”
It added: “The Sokoto Rima River also flows through the state to form an extensive floodplain of about 525,000 ha between Argungu and Suru local government areas with about 142,000ha remaining as a dry season pool of stagnant water after the flood.
Fish production in the state is estimated at 90,000mt, making the state second in terms of freshwater fisheries Resources in Nigeria.”
However, concerns are rife in the state over the impact of climate change, which the United Nations had warned on the implication on fisheries and aquaculture.
“Today, the ocean has absorbed 90 per cent of the heat generated by rising emissions. As excessive heat and energy warm the ocean, the change in temperature leads to unparalleled cascading effects, including ice melting, sea-level rise, marine heat waves, and ocean acidification,” stated the UN.
“The changes ultimately cause a lasting impact on marine biodiversity and the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities and beyond – including around 680 million people living in low-lying coastal areas.
Almost 2 billion who live in half of the world’s megacities that are coastal, nearly half of the world’s population (3.3 billion) that depends on fish for protein, and almost 60 million people who work in fisheries and the aquaculture sector worldwide.”
An assessment of the effects of climate changes on Kebbi state fishing communities by the directorate of fisheries revealed the impact of unusual conditions of temperature, humidity, rainfall, and wind movements on fish production in the state.
“When the surface waters become hot, the fish move below the thermocline for cool waters and make it difficult for the fishers to catch, especially those fishers using the active gears like cast nets and drift nets,” the report noted.
“Higher temperatures also bring about the high rate of evaporation, and these will directly affect the quantity of water in the small water bodies like Fadama pools, which are the shallower breeding grounds for many fish species.”
On rainfall, it observed an increase in the flooding of freshwater bodies, affects feeding and breeding habitat.
“This flooding also leads to silting of some water bodies with time, and if the shallower part of the water body is silted, that means the fish breeding ground is silted, and this can affect fish production; it is common along the River Niger and Rima.”
According to the report, the size of Lake Wamange at Bayawa Argungu LGA is reducing due to silting and scarcity of water because of climatic changes.
It also highlighted the effect of wind movements, adding that when higher, it leads to erosion which can silt some small water bodies, for example, Yakurutu Lake in Sokoto, occupied by sand due to wind erosion.
Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu also pointed to the impact of climate change on the state’s fisheries potential, noting the Matanfada river, where the Argungu International Fishing Festival takes place, was drying up.
He added: “Climate Change is frustrating fishing activities in the country.”
But Kebbi State Chair of the Fish Sellers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Umar Bakatara Gwadangaji, suggested extensive fish farming to bridge the gap of short supply due to low water levels and insecurity.
He was optimistic that massive fish farming would cushion the effect of climate change on fisheries, create jobs for many and boost the state’s revenue.
Recently, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi approved the release of N100 million to the Kebbi State Fishermen Cooperative Union KSFCU, a loan package he said was part of efforts to boost fish farming and empower fishers in the state.
He expressed the state government’s commitment to invest in the sector, stressing that the state can do much better in the fishery.
However, in its key findings on climate change implications on fisheries and aquaculture, the IPCC noted other factors, such as overfishing, habitat loss and pollution, exacerbate the climate impacts.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended fishers can adapt to some climate impacts by reducing non-climate stressors such as pollution, changing fishing pressures, gear or target species, increasing aquaculture and moving to dynamic management policies.