State of pilchard stock still undetermined
11 November 2021 | Ministries
Derek Klazen; Minister of Fisheries; “We are all hoping that the findings are positive…”
Stakeholders in the rock lobster and pilchard sub-sector of the fisheries industry still find themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
According to the minister of fisheries Derek Klazen, the stock assessments for rock lobster and pilchard for the 2019/2020 as well as the 2020/2021 seasons, are of particular concern. “These stocks continue to present poor findings, indicative of poor stock growth. The rock lobster stock is so poor that the average size of the quota is only four metric tons per right holder. This is a small quota allocation considering the cost of harvesting processing, sales and distribution.” Klazen said in his annual address, that it makes sense to him that rock lobster right holders are forever sharing their concern with him as to how they are expected to continue existing in this sub sector, in the face of such poor quota allocations.
The minister stated that the policies of the past promoted the purchasing of rock lobster trawlers, which are currently experiencing operational maintenance difficulties, as well as sustaining employment created on these vessels. “In addition, I am informed that the cost of doing business in Lüderitz is much higher than anywhere else in the country. I have directed the executive director to explore measures available to the ministry within existing policies and legal frameworks on how we can ease the burden of rock lobster fishers and right holders.”
In terms of pilchards, Kalzen stated that the ministry, in consultation with the Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC), will advise him on this sub-sector.
“I recognize that pilchard was a significant contributor to employment particularly in Walvis Bay, and admit that the impact it had on the livelihoods of local residents and the national economy at large, was huge. It goes without saying that many people, especially those who once were part of this lucrative sub-sector, are waiting with bated breath for the pronouncement of the ministry regarding pilchard stock levels.” Klazen said that he does not know what the results are yet. “Our research vessels went out with assistance from the private sector. We are all hoping that the findings are positive.” He advised role players to remain hopeful for a return of this subsector. “I trust my officials and the management consultation process to ensure that we manage this resource with the recognition that our instruments present.”
In terms of commercial fish stocks, particularly hake, horse mackerel and crab, results indicated that these stocks are harvested within maximum sustainable yields. “Survey results indicate that the growth of these stocks will continue to be slow at the present rate of fishing, but will not be depleted. Monk stocks have proven to be challenging to grow, but this stock is also manageable.”
In respect of seal harvesting, the minister stated that he has not come across a person or company that is not complaining of what they refer to as “the negative impact of the seal population on other Namibian fish stocks”. “In this case, the seal population has grown so well that it has become a problem. Following assessment, the seal population is estimated at or above 1.4 million animals. I’ve been informed by stakeholders that this number of seals consume more fish than the whole country fishes per year.”
Klazen said that there is more than meets the eye to the harvesting and processing seals. “It is a challenging process and it appears that bulls are the preferred product to be harvested, while the quota has more pups than bulls. Moreover, the pups are not as economically feasible as the bulls. Seal harvesting has become an international tool used particularly by environmentalist groups, to restrict the trade of fish and fisheries products originating from countries that harvest seals.”
200m Isobath restriction
The minister also announced that the 200m isobath trawling and longline restrictions currently in place for the industry, remain in force. “This measure is aimed at protecting horse mackerel and hake juveniles as well as spawning grounds for a number of commercially exploitable species for the sustainability of these resources.” Klazen said that this measure in conjunction with other complimentary measures are the greatest weapon in the protection of ecologically and biologically significant areas such as corals and other bottom habitats that play a key role in inhabiting and shaping biological communities. The 200m isobath restriction is also relevant for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification for the hake fishery and other international commitments for Marine Protected Areas. “This is also within the ambient of the draft Blue Economy Policy which is geared to improve ocean governance and sustainable ocean activities.” The minister said that he has taken note of the horse mackerel subsectors’ request for fishing within the 200m isobaths. “We are considering several options to ensure the coexistence of the horse mackerel fleets, both wet and freezer trawlers. For the time being, the current 200m isobath ban on trawling and longlining remains in force.”