Weathering the storm?

23 February 2021 | Supplements

Fisheries and its associated industries continue to be a vibrant sector despite numerous challenges. These include, but are not limited to, the most recent blows dealt to the sector by the Covid-19 pandemic, the dark clouds of “quota and rights” insecurity, and the Fishrot stench hanging over it.

In addition, climate change linked to the global warming phenomena, negatively affects the ecosystem balance, which in turn has an adverse effect on fisheries resources.

Industry players are concerned that research is a lacking aspect in determining the state of the fish stock. For example, pilchard catches have already dwindled to such an extent that a moratorium was placed on it. Some canneries ceased to operate completely.

Quota allocation quarrels resulted in retrenchments, while fishermen who revolted against what they term “atrocious” conditions they face while carrying the industry on their shoulders, were unceremoniously dismissed.

The Mongolian proverb “The fish sees the bait, not the hook; a man sees not the danger - only the profit,” springs to mind.

The Fisheries Observers Agency is also facing several tests related to the prudent monitoring of fishing activities in the ocean as well as the shoreline. At its offices in Walvis Bay, damaged vehicles appear to be standing still and rusting away in the absence of money for maintenance purposes.

Yet, the ministry maintains that its emphasis is on the management of the resource in a sustainable manner, the protection of Namibian resources, welfare of the people and growing the industry.

Despite all this, the sector continues to be a significant contributor to employment with thousands of Namibians (16 000) employed by it.

Fisheries also generates considerable revenue for government, on average providing N$10 billion in FOREX earnings between 2012 and 2016 every year, according to the MFMR strategic plan for 2017/18 - 2021/22 published in 2017. Is this still the case? Will the ministry be able to sustain this in the current turmoil the industry finds itself?

Accolades

An accolade worth mentioning is that the Namibia hake trawl and longline fishery became the first in the country and the second in Africa, to meet the globally recognised standard for sustainable fishing set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an environmental not for profit organisation.

Also, Namibia’s hake demersal longline fishery has managed to reduce seabird mortality by an impressive 98%.

These are huge success stories for conservation and for the Southern African region.

With this in mind, we can say “ship ahoy!” and celebrate some positives amidst the flood of negatives from within a resilient industry.