HAFA defends fish trading during lockdown
A storm in a teacup
21 June 2020 | Fishing
Claudius Ikera; HAFA; “Those who are actually plundering most of the fish resources are white members of our society.”
The chairperson of the Hanganeni Artisanal Fishing Association (HAFA) board, Claudius Ikera, says that HAFA members are allowed to catch and sell any fish species on the Namibian coastline because of special permission which they were given by the ministry of fisheries and marine resources (MFMR).
Ikera responded telephonically to rumours circulated on social media and based on a photo posted on the Intelligence Support Against Poaching (ISAP) Facebook group.
The photo depicts a large number of galjoen at HAFA’s factory and caused an uproar among local fishermen who are not allowed to go fishing due to the lockdown.
“I saw the photo circulating on social media. It is amazing to see how things become racial and I don’t like it. Those who are actually plundering most of the fish resources are white members of our society,” said Ikera.
He also squashed rumours accusing HAFA members of using an illegal bait known as annelid worms to catch their fish.
“That is a lie. Our people don’t use that as bait,” he said.
The post on the ISAP Facebook page discouraged residents to buy any HAFA products including galjoen.
“Galjoen is being professionally packed and moved to Windhoek for higher pricing. We ask the public to refrain from buying this product or species and help to stop this. If we don’t buy it, they will not have a market,” the post read.
Fishrot on a smaller scale
A member of the ISAP Facebook group commented on the photo and accused HAFA of being a corrupt organisation. “Hanganeni Artisanal Fishing Association [is made up of] greedy people who are exterminating our fish under the smoke screen of helping unemployed people. It is fishrot on a smaller but just as devastating scale,” he said.
Another member of the Facebook group said that the photo actually depicts how many members of HAFA put bread on the table.
“Guys please be realistic. The photo is of fish caught within legal limits by many fisherman. They consist of young subsistence anglers as well as old pensioners that have to put food on tables and pay house rents as well as water and electricity.”
The member explained that fish are caught and sold to the factory.
“For most of these people this is the only source of income. So let them be and take a look at your own life with your steady income and be thankful,” she said.
According to Ikera, who is also an inspector for the MFMR, the number of fish which were seen in the photo taken in the HAFA factory were not caught in one day.
“It was fish which was caught within a certain period of time. It was catches made for the entire month of May. HAFA had a problem selling the fish because of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns.”
Ikera said the restaurants are closed. “If there was no lockdown, we would have not even had one galjoen at our factory,” he said.
Namibian fish are seasonal and May is galjoen season.
Ikera also said that there are people who are conspiring to tarnish HAFA’s reputation. “The same people who are trying to tarnish our name, are the ones who are plundering the fishing resources. I can confidently say so because I am an inspector for the ministry of fisheries and marine resources and I am always on the coastline making these observations,” he said.
When asked for a comment, the governor of the Erongo region, Neville Andre, said that the only fishing restrictions are for recreational fishing.
According to Andre, recreational fishermen and women are only allowed to catch a maximum of ten fish per day for household consumption and are not allowed to sell and trade the fish.
“However, under the current stage 1 lockdown regulations, artisanal fishermen and women are allowed to catch and sell fish as long as they have a permit for it,” said Andre.
HAFA director Herman /Honeb said that through the organisation’s advocacy and discussions which they had with MFMR, the ministry was sympathetic enough to regard HAFA as an essential service provider.
“Our minister advocated at inter-ministerial level, which was dealing with the Covid-19 response, that HAFA is one of the only organisations which is allowed to take part in the fishing activities during lockdown.”
/Honeb said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with what HAFA members were doing.
According to him, HAFA is the only fishing organisation with rules and regulations in place to control its members with regard to fishing.
He also said that the HAFA Fish Shop and Take Away is currently open and is allowed to sell any species of fish, whether it is galjoen, kabeljou or steenbras.
HAFA is also allowed to take fish to other parts of the country, as long as the organisation adhered to lockdown measures.
/Honeb however expressed his concern regarding illegal fishing and trading, which he said had increased, especially after the lockdowns were implemented in the country.
“Illegal trading is taking place heavily. There are fish being sold on the black market, even in Henties Bay. We know which people are buying this fish. We also know that there are hundreds of people, of all races that are engaging in illegal fishing,” he said.
He said many fishermen and women, who were affected by lockdown regulations, rushed to HAFA to get registered as members “HAFA’s committee refused to register them for now because it will be very difficult to control them. They are also not genuine with HAFA’s membership because they just want to use HAFA’s membership to be allowed to legally catch fish.”
Furthermore he said that HAFA has applied to the MFMR to obtain honorary inspector status, which needs to be handled at the ministerial level.
“Once we get that, we will be dealing with these illegal fishers and traders in our area.”