THE desperate plight for fishing quotas by the workers of Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) to keep the company afloat and to ensure their continued employment has once again fallen on deaf ears.
The more than 200 workers that remained at the beleaguered fishing company staged a mass gathering at the entry gates of SPP’s processing facility in Walvis Bay fully anticipating to catch the eye of Dr. Albert Kawana, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, who is currently at the coast on a working visit.
While on a visit to the Gendev Fishing Group right next door, the fisheries minister drove past the workers who were denied the right to stage a peaceful protest, without acknowledging them.
Because they were not allowed to gather in the street in front of the factory the SPP workers resorted to pasting their posters where they beg for a substantive quota, on the boundary wall and gathering inside the gates to the factory’s premises.
While at Gendev the minister met with the various heads of the different companies that constitute the Gendev Group to discuss labour issues, fishing rights, and quota allocations.
After the discussions, the minister went on a factory tour to see how workers process fish.
The Gendev Group like all other shore-based horse mackerel processing facilities is struggling to keep head above water as the entire Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the year have not yet been allocated by the fisheries minister.
Most of the quota has been channelled to fishing companies that employ super trawlers that can process and freeze their catch at sea. The catch normally gets transhipped to specialised cargo vessels at sea without ever having to be landed on the Namibian shore.
Companies with trawler-based processing capacity employ ten times fewer factory workers than shore-based operations.
During a meeting with the fisheries minister on Friday representatives of the Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association indicated that the lack of quotas from the Total Allowable Catch will force them to close shop and retrench more than 2 000 workers.
Besides employing ten times the number of workers, shore-based processing facilities also create up and downstream business and employment opportunities.
During a presentation to Dr. Kawana on Friday, the Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association urged the minister to keep to the roadmap laid out in the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and the Harambee Prosperity Plan that will see all Namibians benefiting from the abundant horse mackerel resource policy direction that is currently.
Member of the association implored the minister to follow the same direction that was taken with the hake fishing industry where 70% of the annual catch is processed on land. The migration from trawler-based processing to shore-based operations saw the creation of 10 000 jobs.
According to the presentation, the expected outcomes for the horse mackerel fishing sector would be that 50% of the TAC will be allocated to shore-based processing facilities this year while the volumes should be increased by 10% per year until the 70-40 ratio is reached in 2023.
The Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association during the presentation pointed out that fish processed and frozen at sea are not transported by land because the finished product is transhipped at sea to bigger cargo vessels.
When transhipped at sea, the cargo from one super trawler, when it reaches carrying capacity, could, in theory, have created transport opportunities for more than 80 trucks.
Only five multinational companies in the world buy and tranships fish at sea which means that the conglomerate can control the price at which processed horse mackerel is sold.
It means that these companies control the price at which Namibia can sell its fish on the international market.
If more fish is processed on shore Namibians will be able to determine the price at which the resource is sold locally and on the international market.