The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations has warned against using the country’s limited marine resources to solve all the country’s problems.
Namibia is currently grappling with an economic recession, which has resulted in thousands of locals across the country vying for fishing rights as a means to get rich immediately.
But the Chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, said in a statement on Thursday that the industry should not be used as an ATM, cash cow or a get-rich-quick scheme by those trying to escape the country’s economic challenges.
He said the reality is that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) cannot allocate fishing rights to all applicants.
Amukwa said the fishing industry has always welcomed new entrants and will always respect the policies and directives of the government, “as the national interest must come first before the individual interests.”
According to the fishing body, other government ministries should also come to the party by allowing equal participation by locals, through the allocation of licences.
“We would like to encourage other ministries, which are custodians of a national resource, like mines and energy, to adopt the same pragmatic and open approach when allocating rights and licenses for those resources under their control,” he said.
Amukwa said the open and transparent approach to the granting of fishing rights is putting the MFMR under extreme pressure because of the limited size of the quota to be allocated.
“The ministry can only allocate quotas in line with the size of fish resources. Namibia can be justifiably proud of its fishing industry, an industry which at independence was on its knees. Most species were overfished and the resource was in a deplorable state. The MFMR, through its fishing management system was able to improve the state of many of the species. Today, the horse mackerel, hake and monk are being fished nearly at the maximum sustainable yield,” he said.
“However, not all species have reacted positively to the management strategy and the pilchard has been placed under a fishing moratorium, which will hopefully assist this species in its recovery. Even so, we can only commend our ministry and scientists for their successful work under the circumstances.”
Amukwa said those wishing to be granted fishing quotas must be prepared to add value to the marine resources, but should be warned that the issuing of more rights could deplete the resource and result in a reduction in catch rates.
“Therefore, while the interest by the public is great, it must be understood that not all can be successful.”
The fishing industry is an economic giant, providing direct employment to around 16,000 people and indirect employment to another 22,000.
The industry earns N$10,5 billion annually in foreign exchange and it is the economic driver in the harbour towns of Lüderitz and Walvis Bay.
Amukwa said prior to independence, companies whose shareholders lived outside of the country controlled the fisheries in Namibia, but today Namibians staff the vessels that land the fish at shore-based factories were an increasingly amount of value-added products are being produced for the local and international markets.
“Fishing rights were in the hands of foreigners and profits were repatriated to their head offices in Cape Town, Moscow and other places.
“The Namibianization policy of the government was designed to rectify the situation and ensure that the rights and benefits from Namibian fishing resources are given to Namibians. This policy has been followed strictly since independence and today 99 percent of fishing rights are in the hands of Namibian citizens or companies controlled by Namibians.”