Fish stocks 'healthy' says Esau

18 February 2019 | Fishing

Namibia's fish stocks are healthy and are managed sustainably. Once again, this was the central message of fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau during his annual address to the fishing industry on Friday in Walvis Bay.

At the outset, Esau made it clear that this year is the year of accountability, thus, all fishing rights applications would be scrutinised in detail. “All rights holders whose rights have expired after seven or 20 years, must now be held accountable and must show us what they have achieved during that time,” Esau stated.

Hundreds of stakeholders from the fishing industry gathered in Walvis Bay and expectantly waited for the announcement of the distribution of fishing rights - in vain.

“We are in the final stages of the assessment and will make an announcement in the next few months,” Esau said. According to him a total of 5 193 fishing rights applications were made. “In the past we had 2 000 applications which took a year to evaluate and award. We are currently at the final stages of the evaluation after just three months,” he announced proudly and added: “Those who have complied with the criteria, have invested in the sector and have created jobs, can be sure that I am determined to sustain employment and investments in the sector. For the rest, tough luck,” he said.

Esau sent out a stern warning to people or entities who sell fish quotas to make a “quick buck”. He warned he would withdraw the quota. In the same vein he warned shareholders who “cheat” their colleagues. “Communities and vulnerable groups are being cheated out of their dividends and this must not continue,” he warned.

Esau continued that his ministry was aware of the incidents of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, “particularly along our northern maritime border with Angola”. He added that this practice is “sporadic, limited to this area and takes place only at night”.

“I will not reveal the whole strategy on this matter, but wish to warn those who are guilty that we have a government approach. Those who are either facilitating or participating in this activity will soon regret their actions.”

In his speech the minister described the entire fishery resource as “healthy”, with only one exception: the pilchard industry. There has been a significant decline in landings of pilchard over the past years, which is why a three-year moratorium was declared in 2018. “But the pilchard industry constituted a total of 2.5 % of the total fishery, so it must be seen in this context too,” he noted. The decline is, however, regarded as a “very serious” matter, he added.

“We are not sure if sardines have moved to deeper waters or the stock has gone down. I expect a report on extensive research next year,” he said. For this year's fishing season, the ministry has set a total allowable catch (TAC) of 349 000 tonnes for horse mackerel. This amount is above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and therefore a sustainable amount, Esau said. For hake a total allowable catch of 154 000 tonnes was set. This species make up 94% of the commercial fish species landed in Namibia.

For monkfish a quota of 8 000 tonnes was determined. The quota for crab was set at 3 400 tonnes and 200 tonnes for crayfish. “Aerial surveys have shown that the Cape fur seal population is healthy and is expanding considerably,” Esau said, but did not make mention of any quotas.

Erwin Leuschner

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