Shellfish farming is one of the major economic diversification projects capable of lifting Nigeria’s economy out of its present predicament and creating more job opportunities, reducing fish importation,improving the livelihood and income generation among the teeming nation’s populace, if its potentials are given adequate attention and properly harnessed.
Oluayo Bello-Olusoji, a professor of Fisheries Management, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), made the assertion during the presentation of his paper titled, “Balanced Equation, the Missing Value–Shellfish”, delivered at FUTA’s 124th Inaugural lecture recently held in the university auditorium.
The fishery expert disclosed that shellfish can be categorised into crustaceans such as prawns, lobsters, shrimps, freshwater crayfish and molluscs such as clams, oysters, snails and periwinkles, adding that shellfish farming would generate more income and increase the per capita income of the country because there are many consumers outside the country in Europe, Asia and America who are longing for many of the shellfish species which are abundant in Nigeria and the country can key into the money spinning shellfish industry in Asia, America and Latin America.
Highlighting the relevance of shellfish farming to the economy, Bello-Olusoji explained that shellfish asides improving consumption of protein among the populace, plays an important role in the world’s economic system and supports the actualization of the United Nations agenda on food security. Shellfish farming, he averred, involves the totality of fisheries, from production to harvesting, processing and utilization, provision of balanced diet, nutrition improvement, marketing, creation of jobs, income generation and livelihood enhancement.
“Shellfish is experiencing extremely good export potential as it is now being exported to over 77 countries,” he said.
Commenting on the state of captured fisheries in the global market, Bello-Olusoji bemoaned that it has not been able to keep pace with growing demand as aquaculture is still growing and producing less than 20 per cent of global demand.
He pointed that shellfish is the only important food source among the capture fisheries that is still primarily gathered from the wild rather than farmed, creating a need to turn to shellfish production to meet the ever-increasing demand to satisfy the quest for food.
According to him, Nigeria has a long coastline of 853 kilometers and the Niger Delta has a large unused beach edge, which can be used for coastal shrimp farming without destroying mangroves. He further noted that Creeks, floodplains, brackish water and wetland areas have been identified as the best places for shellfish aquaculture in the country.
The renowned agriculturist and Shellfish ecology scientist recommended the creation of a shellfish bank for classification and mapping and a programme of education for farmers and other players in the aquatic environment in order to caution them against indiscriminate and accidental discharge of some locally processed products as growth and development of shellfish are hindered by obnoxious discharge of toxic to the water bodies. He also suggested that efforts should be geared towards reducing the impact of effluent on aquatic habitats while strict policies and laws should be enacted by environmental protection agencies.
The seafood sector, he noted, is a big business, extremely dynamic and is increasingly becoming a global sector creating wealth opportunities and jobs which can be effectively harnessed through development in human capacity and technology as well as increase in human resources in order to obtain optimum and sustainable outcomes in shellfish farming.