MORE than 2 000 people employed by shore-based horse mackerel fish processing plants along the Namibian coast are going to lose their jobs because of a shortage of fishing quotas.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr. Albert Kawana, said that more consultation is needed to prevent unnecessary job losses during a meeting with representatives of the Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association after he was informed that several shore-based horse mackerel processing facilities will have to close down within the next 30 to 60 days because no quotas have been allocated.
“This is actually an emergency meeting. The government will have to, as a matter of urgency, decide if is actually willing to sacrifice more than 2 000 jobs over the next two months while the resources are readily available to prevent such losses in the current economic climate,” the managing director of Seaflower Pelagic Processing,” Adriaan Louw urged.
Besides that, fishing companies with shore-based processing facilities have hardly received quotas for 2021, Louw decried the fact that most of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been channelled to companies that only have trawler-based processing and freezing facilities.
“The Horse mackerel fishing season was supposed to start on the first day of January this year and fishing companies with shore-based processing were supposed to receive 60% of the TAC. Very little of the TAC has been allocated and most of that was channelled to companies operating super trawlers,” he said.
Another point raised by Louw was that different fishing zones should be established for freezer trawlers and wet fish trawlers or that the super trawlers be handicapped to eliminate unfair competition.
He pointed out that the hake industry already has such regulations in place and wet hake processing companies receive 70% of the TAC while employing in excess of 10 000 Namibians.
“At the moment the entire TAC has been channelled to two or three companies that operate super trawlers that employ ten times fewer factory workers than shore-based processing plants,” he said.
The wet fish companies have spent billions of dollars on transforming their facilities into shore-based processing operations and in acquiring smaller wet fish fishing vessels to employ more Namibians.
Louw pointed out to Dr. Kawana that the paradigm change from freezer trawler-based fishing that benefitted only two companies and a few privileged people, to shore-based processing dates back to 2011 when the horse mackerel industry was dominated by only two companies.
“Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba already in 2011 requested fisheries authorities to review how the horse mackerel industry can be changed to give more Namibians access to the abundant resource. The first step was to align Namibia with best international practice and to create more shore-based processing facilities,” Louw said.
He said that a new policy was created and approved by a Cabinet of which Dr. Kawana was a member.
“Despite the best intentions of the government the new policy direction again only benefitted a few persons and employed less than 400 people. After a thorough review, further regulations were approved by Cabinet and companies spent billions of dollars aligning themselves with the new guidelines. The joint venture between The National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) and Africa Selection Fishing Namibia (ASFN) and the establishment of Seaflower Pelagic Processing at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars was the result of the new policy direction that was approved by the same Cabinet,” he said.
Louw added that one of the two companies that reaped the biggest benefits before the new policy was implemented, even established a facility with a processing capacity of 30 000 tons at an astronomical cost.
“Besides the thousands of job opportunities that will be lost, most of the shore-based companies have sustained severe financial losses while Namibia’s reputation as an investor-friendly destination will be severely tarnished,” Louw concluded.