An Angolan flagged fishing vessel was caught red handed by tourists near the Kunene River mouth while it was trawling just behind the wave line and photographic evidence of the illicit activities by the trawler from one of Namibia’s closest allies shocked the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The tourists were driving through the desolate Skeleton Coast Park when they saw the fishing vessel not more than 200 metres from the beach. Angolan fishing vessels are spotted regularly in the area south of the Kunene River mouth on their way north after illegally entering Namibian territorial waters.
The person who photographed the vessel while it was stealing Namibian fish said the trawler was moving slowly in a northerly direction and that it had cables trailing behind it as if it was dragging a net. The same vessel was potted the next few days hovering just north of the river mouth an area that is rarely visited by people traveling in four wheel drive vehicles.
Mr. Bernard Esau, the Minister of fisheries and Marine Resources reacted with shock and said the actions of the Angolan fishing vessel are tantamount to inviting war.
“Not only is the vessel in Namibia’s territorial waters but as it can be seen to be within 200 metres from the shore. The area close to shore is where most fish species breed and spawn and if they are trawling this close to shore they are destroying one of Namibia’s most valuable resources.”
Mr. Esau said he is shocked that visitors to the desolate area were the only people who saw and recorded the criminal activities of the Angolan vessel.
“We have deployed patrol boats to the area because we know that Angolan vessels come to Namibian waters from time to time. The Government have provided the resources to combat this specific kind of activity but it is still shocking to see such evidence.”
Mr. Esau said in such cases people should notify the Namibian Police immediately in order for officials from the ministry and law enforcement agencies can follow up and investigate immediately.
“We conduct a survey every year to determine the biomass within our waters and that information is used to determine the total allowable catch of the Namibian fishing industry. The actions by the Angolan vessel and others like it defeat all efforts by government and other stakeholders to protect the resource and it also endangers the local industry.”
Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations Chairman, Mr. Matti Amukwa, said the illicit actions by the Angolan fishermen are endangering the Namibian fish resource and industry.
“Nobody is allowed to fish on that scale so close to shore. That is where fish breed and spawn and if this illegal fishing is allowed to continue it defeats all efforts by the Namibian Government to protect the resource from over exploitation. Such illegal actions also have the potential to destroy an important revenue stream for the National Economy as well as the sustainability of the Namibian fishing industry and along with that the livelihood of thousands of people who earns a living from fisheries.”
Amukwa added that members of the confederation will do anything in their power to assist the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and law enforcement agencies to combat illegal fishing in Namibia’s territorial waters.