Esau threatens to withhold quotas
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12 September 2014
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news esaufish 12 augThe Windhoek Observer this week sat down with the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernard Esau for an interview to clarify damning allegations of favouritism and conflict of interest that appeared in a faceless publication that was carried in a local daily on Wednesday

 

Windhoek Observer (WO): Could you briefly outline the process involved in the allocation of fishing quotas, and explain instances where you allocate quotas to non-right holders?

Minister Bernard Esau (BE) I allocate quotas to right holders and non-right holders as well. With right holding entities, we have a pro-rata formula, and we put this formula in place way back before we even discussed the policy of industrialisation or before we talked about value addition.

When it comes to horse mackerel, there were only two operating companies in the past, therefore one could say there was a duopoly. Therefore, all the right holders had to enter into a catch arrangement with these two companies.

This was not a competitive situation, because the two operating companies received the full quota and split it. That was a bit of a background regarding the history of right holding companies.

We also allocated quotas to non-right holding companies such as the pelagic association. The pro rata formula did not exist at that stage, and it was down to the discretion of the minister how much I allocated.

For example, in 2007, we gave a quota to Fishcor (state-owned fishing company) who are non-right holders, and even last year when drought hit the country, I gave a quota to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Nowadays, a process exists whereby people apply for quotas, and our officials do the evaluations and will come to me via the permanent secretary and make a recommendation on what I should allocate to what company.

I take decisions based on that recommendation. If I am completely satisfied with what they explain to me, and the rationale behind the recommendation, then I approve. This is how we do it, because time is of the essence. If we allow it to become a lengthy process companies would have to lay people off and it would affect their operations.

WO: There appears to be uncertainty surrounding the Mozambican and Angolan quotas. Could you please shed some light on how these agreements work.

BE: Indeed, quotas also exist that we allocate to other countries through our bilateral agreements in the case of Angola and Mozambique.

In the past, we have allocated quotas to Mozambique and they reciprocate. When I took over at the ministry, I introduced the issue of reciprocity so that companies in Mozambique, for example, would also give quotas to those Namibian companies from whom they have received quotas in the past.

It was important for this initiative to materialise because we had spoken about it, but never done anything, and it now promotes intra-African trade.

The same is the case with Angola. Under our Memorandum of Understanding, I have now for the first time allocated a quota to an Angolan entity that we have received a quota from. I just reciprocated although I did not even give them an equal amount to what we received from them.

WO: It appears that horse mackerel right holders cry foul when the minister uses his discretion to allocate horse mackerel rights to hake right holders. What is the rationale behind this action?

BE: We have to make one thing absolutely clear from the beginning; I am not the minister for horse mackerel alone, but of all the maritime resources.

Therefore, when hake right holders appear to be struggling to remain in business, I may use my discretion to give them a once off horse mackerel quota in order for them to pay debtors, retain employees and not close shop.

There is absolutely nothing sinister about me ensuring that the entire industry survives, because it is not in our interest to see hake right holders go out of business. It is not a must, that if you have a right you should automatically receive a quota allocation.

I can opt not to give you a quota, even though I have not done so during my term, but I have power to do so according to the law. However, if people drive me towards taking that kind of action, I will do it.

WO: Confusion also arose regarding the allocation of the quota to Etale fishing that was meant for Emeritus, can you please provide clarity on what transpired there.

BE: To make things categorically clear, Emeritus Fishing is a horse mackerel right holder. Ministry officials made a blunder internally whereby the permanent secretary wrote a letter to Etale Fishing informing them that the ministry had allocated them a quota. However, the ministry withdrew that letter and they are aware of this. Which is why, when someone asked me, my response at the time was that I was not aware of Etale having received a quota. –This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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