Fishing partners fight over crab quota

Otis Daniels_Finck
Windhoek ∙ Ogone Tlhage


A fishing rights holder has questioned a decision by fisheries minister Derek Klazen to award additional quotas for red crab to several joint-venture companies on an unequal basis.

Klazen had allocated 120 tonnes to Kehna Investments, 120 tonnes to Ocean Masters Fishing and 120 tonnes to Born Free Investments, joint-venture partners in the entity Exocrab Namibia Fishing in which they are all equal shareholders.

A shareholder in one of the companies said there was no justifiable reason for the unequal rights allocation. “For the past two years, we were each allocated a quota on an equal basis of 120 metric tonnes. For the 2022 season, some of us are allocated a lesser quota while the other joint-venture partners are awarded more. On what basis?” the source said.

According to the source, all companies annually submit plans of how they intend to utilise their quotas, including their corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Politics

Despite the compliance, the source alleged some companies were given preferential treatment on political grounds. One of the rights holders has in the meantime sought legal action against a decision to divide the quota unequally.

Reacting to the claims, the ministry of fisheries said it could not comment on the matter. “The ministry of fisheries and marine resources received a letter of complaint threatening litigation against the action of the ministry. As such, it will not be prudent to make any public utterances or responses at this stage,” it said.

Legal challenge

One of the JV partners, Ocean Masters, has approached lawyer Trevor Brockerhoff to challenge the decision to award the quotas unequally. “We are instructed to record that as part of your Namibianisation drive for the fishing sector, the ministry has encouraged rights holders to acquire and own fishing vessels. However, your recent intention to unequally allocate quotas to the JV partners will derail all progress made within the JV as same will shift the power dynamics and create an unequal relationship between the parties,” Brockerhoff said in a letter to the ministry.

“We are further instructed to record that our clients received a notice of intention to allocate a quota of 120 metric tonnes for the fishing season 2022 each. Our clients have taken notice of the unequal distribution of quotas within the JV, to the extent that two of their JV partners received 160 metric tonnes and 170 metric tonnes respectively,” he added.

According to Brockerhoff, the unequal distribution was unconstitutional. “This we are instructed to record is discriminatory and infringes on the constitutional rights to equality before the law. There is simply no factual, legal or scientific basis to support this disparity,” he said.