Let’s tread carefully

26 September 2019 | Opinion

President Hage Geingob was at great pains to stress Namibia’s commitment to protecting the ocean and the country’s fishing sector.

Speaking at the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in New York, Geingob said Namibia had committed US$5 million (N$74.3 million) towards ocean research and protection during the 2019/20 financial year, among other moves to ensure the sustainability of the country’s fisheries. This comes amidst growing fears in the country that a proposed phosphate project might receive the green light to start with seabed mining near Walvis Bay. Many are of the opinion that phosphate mining would cause irreversible damage to Namibia's fishing industry, which is a pillar of the country's economy. Geingob recently promised Omani billionaire Mohammed Al Barwani, who is the majority owner of Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP), that there would soon be a final decision on their application for an environmental clearance certificate. This follows a letter in which Al Barwani, whose net worth is believed to be over N$16 billion, expressed concern to Geingob about the delay of the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project after its environmental clearance certificate was set aside last year. The Sandpiper Project is located about 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay. Fish exports continue to play a significant role as one of Namibia's major sources of revenue. A Namibia Statistics Agency report for the third quarter of 2018 showed that fish was among the country’s top five commodities, and the only food item among exports that included minerals such as diamonds and precious metals, ores and concentrates. Fish exports generated about N$2.5 billion in the third quarter of 2018, compared to N$2.3 billion over the same period in 2017. These increased by 12% in the third quarter of 2018, compared to the third quarter of 2017, and contributed about 10% of the total export earnings of N$24.3 billion. The report says Namibia exported most of the fish to Spain, and realised N$1.1 billion. There is thus a need to tread carefully.

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