Bidvest, Oceana to lose fishing rights

08 June 2018 Author   Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa 

Africa’s largest fishing company Oceana Group faces a battle to hold onto its fishing rights in Namibia after the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, announced this week in Parliament that listed firms will no longer be awarded quotas.

The two companies have also been barred from becoming shareholders in any applicant company for fishing rights.  
Esau told Parliament on Tuesday  that this measure was taken in line with the country’s Marine Resources Act, 2000, which requires the minister to determine whether or not an applicant for a fishing right, or fishing quota is a Namibia citizen.  
He added that the ban on listed firms was because government could not easily monitor whether these companies were owned by Namibian citizens, as required by law.
“Ownership and hence citizenship in a company listed on a stock exchange changes by the hour, hence this legal requirement cannot be met by listed companies,” the minister said.
Bidvest Namibia, which is listed on the Namibia Stock Exchange, could also lose its local fishing rights after the policy shift outlined by Esau. 
Bidvest Namibia’s fishing unit consists of Namsov Fishing Enterprises, Trachurus Fishing, United Fishing Enterprise, Twafika, Telelestai and Pesca Fresca. 
Oceana, which is listed on South African and Namibian exchanges and also operates in Angola and the United States, said it hoped its investments in Namibia would be safe as they were structured to include local shareholders.
Oceana’s horse mackerel fishing rights, which were granted in 2003, come to an end in December this year. 
“Oceana has been invested in Namibia for many years through our participation in the pilchard and horse mackerel industry as well as our land-based cold storage facilities. Through our involvement we believe we have contributed positively to the fishing industry and the Namibian economy as whole.
 “We recognise the need to broaden the spread of fishing rights by including a diverse range of Namibian citizens and companies. Oceana remains positive about the Namibian fishing industry. 
“Given the extent of our fishing experience and as a leading fishing company in the region, we believe we will continue to add value to the sector by partnering with Namibians as an operator,” said Zaida Adams, an investor relations executive at Oceana.
Bidvest Namibia’s Chief Executive Officer, Sebby Kankondi, did not respond to a request for comment, but the company whose fortunes from its fishing unit cash cow have dwindled considerably since government cut its fishing quota three years ago, recently announced plans to dispose of the fishing business.
There are a total of 319 rights in Namibia’s marine fisheries which were issued on eight separate occasions since 1992. 
Several of these rights expired in 2017 or are expiring this year and next year.
The expiring rights are in nine fishery species namely  hake, horse mackerel, monk, red crab, rock lobster, line fish, large pelagic, mullets and seal. 
Fishing is the third-biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product, after mining and agriculture. It contributes around N$10 billion in foreign-currency earnings annually.
The government has set July 31 as the deadline for applications for fishing rights. –Additional reporting by Eliaser Ndeyanale

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