Floodgates open for quota 'middlemen'

• successful bidders FREE to resell fishing rights

02 September 2020 | Fishing



The government has confirmed there is nothing holding back the winning bidders of its “governmental objectives” quotas from profiting by reselling the hake, horse mackerel and monk fishing rights.

Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi announced last week that the government had raised about N$630 million from the controversial auction, which had been criticised by community groups and fishing stakeholders.

The quotas had previously been dished out to state entity Fishcor, which is currently at the centre of the Fishrot bribery scandal.

On offer, via an auction that concluded recently, was 11 000 metric tonnes of hake, 72 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel and 392 metric tonnes of monk. Successful bidders had until Monday to cough up.

Of the quotas up for grabs, 40% had been reserved wholly for local companies, while 60% was open for bids from local and international companies.

Reflecting on the auction, fisheries minister Albert Kawana said yesterday once bidders had paid, they were free to sell the quotas if they wanted.

He made the comment when asked whether the government had taken steps to prevent speculative onwards selling of fishing quotas.

“From a legal perspective, let me put it this way, if there are cars that were auctioned and you pay for it, it becomes yours. Legally once you get it, it's yours, the law protects you,” he said. The minister admitted that more money could have been raised had the auction been open-ended, but added that it was being done to finance the government's coronavirus response.

Much ado about nothing

Kawana dismissed the notion that the government was short-sighted in auctioning off the rights.

“As you know there was much hullabaloo. The decision was to see what is the value that government owns. We wanted to establish the market and test the market,” said Kawana. According to Kawana, it was a justified response by the government, more so because 40% of the total quota was reserved for Namibians while 60% was open to international and local bidders.

This was also based on discussions with the fishing industry, he said. “It was a demand or request that was justified in my view to allocate some portion of the government quota to Namibians. To us this was a genuine request,” he said. Kawana criticised those opposing the auction, asking where else the government was supposed to raise money at short notice.

“Where will government get the money to finance the response? You want to go to the International Monetary Fund? No. Do you want to go to China? No,” Kawana said.

Checks and balances

Kawana said only Namibian-flagged vessels would be allowed to catch.

“One of the conditions is that the vessel must be licensed in Namibia. We will never allow foreign vessels to come in, [there will] absolutely no way for foreign vessels to come in,” Kawana said.

He said vessels would also be required to record what they catch, with the process being observed by fisheries inspectors.

“You cannot go out without an observer. Those vessels, there must be an observer, every day there must be a record … even the by-catch must be recorded,” Kawana said.