Taking bold steps to tackle the challenges plaguing the aquaculture sector, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (FMAFS) has unveiled the National Aquatic Animal Health Strategy for Nigeria (NAAHS) 2023-2027.
The launch aims to fortify the delivery of robust aquatic animal health services and bolster production, processing and marketing within the aquaculture sector.
During the event in Abuja, the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (FMAFS), Dr. Ernest Umakhihe conveyed the significance of NAAHS. The director of the department of fisheries and aquaculture, Dr. Ime Umoh represented him. Umakhihe emphasised that the implementation of NAAHS would mitigate the adverse impacts of aquatic pathogens, safeguard human health and enhance the resilience of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the country.
Furthermore, Umakhihe highlighted the potential for the international trade of aquatic animal species, including aquaculture fish, shrimps and water snails, among others. He noted that a comprehensive aquatic animal health strategic plan would not only address the challenges in the aquaculture sector but also pave the way for enhanced and secure fishery production and productivity across Nigeria.
“The launch signifies a significant milestone in the nation’s dedication to the well-being of our aquatic ecosystems, the prosperity of our aquatic industry, and the exploration of the vast potential of the industry in ensuring food and nutritional security.”
The permanent secretary commended the department of veterinary and pest control services, along with its developmental partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (FAO-ECTAD), African Union-Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), ECOWAS-Regional Animal Health Centre (ECOWAS-RAHC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), for spearheading the development and validation of the National Aquatic Animal Health Strategy Plan.
He encouraged relevant stakeholders to adopt the strategy, provide support and actively participate in its execution to harness the potential of aquatic resources for the collective benefit of all Nigerians.
In his welcoming address, the chief veterinary officer of Nigeria and director of the Federal Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Dr. Columba Vakuru emphasised that the strategy would expedite research and innovation in aquatic animal health. It would also stimulate investments in innovative research aimed at creating new diagnostic tools, vaccines and treatments for aquatic diseases.
Vakuru underscored that diseases affecting aquatic animals could severely impact food and nutritional security, the economy, public health, and the delicate equilibrium of aquatic ecosystems. He added that “by prioritising the health of our aquatic animals, we are safeguarding our economy, protecting public health, and preserving our natural heritage for future generations”.
Dr. Gbolahan Oladosu, from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan, provided insights into the National Aquatic Animal Health Strategy (NAAHS). He revealed that NAAHS comprised Fifteen Programs with Twenty-Nine Associated Projects and Activities slated for implementation over five years (2023-2027).
He further disclosed that the Implementation Plan would undergo revision and renewal at the end of the third year, 2025. New Programs and Projects could be incorporated based on the progress achieved through project completion.
Oladosu also detailed that NAAHS would encompass national action plans aligned with national priorities for phased implementation over the short, medium and long terms.
A statement by the ministry’s director of information signed by Ikemefuna Ezeaja announced that the highlight of the event was the official inauguration of the National Aquatic Animal Health Strategy in Nigeria (2023-2027).