From Overfishing to Sustainable Aquaculture in Lagos


When the seas became overfished by commercial fishermen, the government created the Lagos Seafood Festival — inviting seafood lovers to indulge and everyone to learn more about sustainable aquaculture.

I heard the sprawling city of Lagos before I saw it — the honking of cars, the shouting of vendors, and the music on radios from passing cars. Lagos, Nigeria is a city that announces itself. I was there to visit the famous Lagos Seafood Festival, an annual celebration of the Atlantic coast’s rich marine life and diversity of seafood. The Lagos State government launched the festival in 2012 to encourage local fish sales, stimulate investment opportunities, and showcase the state's seafood potential to the international market.

Indigenous vendors at Lagos Seafood Festival
The aquaculture program and the Festival have made Lagos state the highest producer of aquaculture seafoods in West Africa.

The event’s goal has been to educate local fishermen on the benefits of aquaculture and the impact of overfishing on ocean life. The Festival’s organizers have been encouraging fishermen to adopt sustainable aquaculture practices, while also educating the public on the deleterious effects of throwing waste and plastics into the ocean. One fisherman said that the Festival “introduced me to aquaculture and has proven to be a reliable way to earn money to sustain my family. Before this, I had days where I went without catching any fish because there was nothing in the water.” 

Excessive fishing by commercial companies in and around the region had compromised the livelihoods of many locals — those who relied solely on fishing for income, employment and cultural identity. Building on the success of the Seafood Festival, in 2020 the Lagos State government established a thirteen-million-dollar (US) aquaculture center to stimulate investment and boost aquaculture practices in the state, while enabling fishermen to sustain their incomes — an initiative that has since benefitted more than 2,000 fishermen-turned-aquaculture-farmers. Together, the aquaculture program and the Festival have made Lagos state the highest producer of aquaculture seafoods in West Africa. Ocean life has also benefited, as evidenced by the recovery of the Atlantic sailfish and other aquatic species that were once scarce or believed endangered. 

Mud Crabs in a crate
Mud crabs for sale from a local farmer.

The day of my visit, the Seafood Festival displayed an array of fish, crabs, prawns, and other varieties of seafood, most of which were home-farmed, demonstrating the benefits and progress made by individuals who ventured into aquaculture. The Festival, which boosts tourism in the state by attracting shoppers from all over, was packed with stalls operated by hundreds of vendors, some selling fresh seafood, others offering cooked and preserved seafood delicacies, and still others making take-out seafood meals. Other stalls showcased artwork by local artists and artisans. A friend of mine remarked: “It's like a festival packed with all my favorite things in one place.” 

Read more dispatches from around our pale blue dot:

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Augustina Boateng
Augustina Boateng
Augustina Boateng is a freelance writer who is passionate about exploring the latest trends and developments in science, technology and innovation. She is a self-taught journalist who has been writing for various online platforms and magazines and hopes to inspire and empower her readers with engaging and insightful stories that showcase the potential of human creativity and curiosity.
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