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Toe the line or risk losing fishing rights - association

08 March 2019 Author   NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA
Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, has warned industry players who continue to disregard ministerial directives on beneficiation that they risk being driven out of the system.
Amukwa’s comment comes amid consternation by some small industry players over the directive by the fisheries ministry not to sell their fishing quotas without adding value to the fish.
The industry players are of the view that it does not make economic sense for them to buy fishing vessels because of the small quotas allocated to them.
Others have also said that it would be economic suicide to buy costly fishing vessels in an industry where fishing rights can be taken away after a few years.  
Amukwa, however, defended the ministerial directives, arguing that  the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) allocates fishing rights and quotas so that Namibians can partake in the whole fishing chain, from catching, processing and marketing of fish and fish products.
He said the idea is for the right holders (whether big or small) to take the route of true partnership with existing operators which should translate in ownership, transfer of know-how and sustainable growth of the industry.
“Such route may be less profitable in the short-term, but far more rewarding and constructive in the long run. This is what the ministry is advocating,” Amukwa said.
He advised players with vessels and operations, but without enough quotas, to open their operations to the smaller right holders and engage in arm’s-length partnerships for the benefit of both.
“If they try to keep ownership and ignore the government objectives they will eventually be driven out of the system. It is clear that partnering and consolidation of the industry is the viable solution and that has to be understood by all stakeholders.”
Amukwa denied claims that the ban on quota sales will result in job losses in a sector that employs about 15000 people as bigger players struggle to sustain operations without additional quotas.
“Not at all, this is only an excuse used by those that intend to perpetuate the system of buying and selling quotas ignoring the national development policies. The route is for operators and quota holders to come together in true partnerships that are established according to the governmental objectives driven by the MFMR.
“I strongly recommend to those operators who do not respect the wishes of our government and those quota horse traders that they start taking serious note of the ministry’s directives and engage in honest and sustainable partnerships.”
Amukwa further said the fishing industry is what it is today because of sacrifices, commitments and serious investment.
“Let's not take short cuts, but let's continue to develop the industry together and take it to the next level,” he said.
Last year, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources declared war on non-compliant right holders by slashing their quotas by a reported 5 percent.
Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau, who was not available for comment this week as he was out of the country attending an international conference, told industry players in July that he had directed officials at the ministry to deduct quotas from right holders, proportionate to value addition targets which have not been complied with as indicated in the letter of quota allocations.
He warned that this will be the order of the day going forward, in order to ensure that companies deliver on their promises made during applications for quotas.
“We will slash quotas and give to those that are really delivering to government’s call as we cannot compromise our fight against poverty,” he said at the time.
Amukwa confirmed this week that “there have been several cases of quotas reduced and rights being terminated over the years due to non-compliance to the MFMR laws and regulations”.
According to Esau, government has provided clarity in terms of value addition, job creation and economic inclusivity in the fishing industry.
Under NDP5, government has set a target of adding value to 70 percent of total Horse Mackerel landings by 2022. The target for 2018/2019 is 35 percent, which translates to 122,000 metric tonnes.
Last month, four fishing companies were forced to cancel plans to sell their horse mackerel quotas following a strongly-worded letter from Esau.
According to a New Era report, the four - Epango Fishing (Pty) Ltd, Mack Fishing (Pty) Ltd, Sinco Fishing (Pty) Ltd and Yukor Fishing (Pty) Ltd – had formed a consortium in a bid to sell off a chunk of their allocated quota for about N$43 million.