Uncertainty created by the fact that the allocation of new fishing rights have been delayed with few months is cause for some concern for players in the Namibian fishing industry.
The Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, said during the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources’ annual address to the fishing industry that it is understandable that the Government still has to carefully go through the process, but pointed out that time is running out for the industry to do proper planning.
“It is important that industry is able continue to operate without disruption, until such time as the new right holders have been announced. Therefore, it is of the highest relevance that Total Allowable Catches and quota allocations are announced timely and as early as possible to allow for proper planning in the whole value chain of fishing operations.
Amukwa said the time is ripe for industry and the ministry to engage and consult in order to investigate TAC setting models that would cover periods longer than a year to provide the industry with the required stability and the ministry with more time to scrutinize the information received in quota applications.
The speech by Amukwa reads as follows:
Once again, it is the beginning of 2019 and I am privileged to stand before this august house to share with you the trials and highlights of our Namibian fishing industry.
2019 is indeed an expecting year for our Fishing industry. Many fishing rights have lapsed after 20 years by effluxion of time in 2018, and more will come to an end in December of this year. The MFMR is required by legislation to call on right holders, who have invested in vessels and processing facilities, and the public in general, to apply for new fishing rights. The rights application process, once set in motion, saw the MFMR receiving well over 5,000 applications.
Over the last two years the MFMR in consultation with the industry, has developed a new quota allocation system based on a scorecard, which requires more detailed information from the applicant, but at the same time makes the whole process more transparent. This however means that the MFMR spends more time with each application to ensure that the information given is correct and verified but unfortunately it requires time. The fishing industry fully supports the Ministry in its endeavours to ensure a fair and transparent allocation process. The industry has made commitments to employees, suppliers of goods and services, banks and clients and these commitments needs to be adhered to if the reputation of the Namibian fishing industry, as a reliable supplier of high-quality products is to be maintained.
The industry understands that the Ministry needs time to complete the rights application process. It is however important that industry can continue to operate without disruption, until such time as the new right holders have been announced. We recognize the efforts made by our Ministry in this regard and applaud the Hon minister and his team for keeping the industry going.
We know that the application process for new rights has created hype and increased expectations and it is perhaps appropriate to stand back and look at the whole process from a distance while the ministry is doing its job. The Minister’s hand is guided by the Constitution, which requires that the Honourable Minister manage the country marine resources in a sustainable manner, to ensure that future generations will still be able to fish the marine resources off the coast of Namibia.
The sea is not blessed with unlimited resources and the Honourable Minister in granting rights and quotas has unfortunately not got a magic wand that will provide, but is restricted by nature when determining as to what TAC can be allowed in order to manage the resource sustainably.
This is very important and perhaps overlooked in the general hype to obtain quota, and there will be people, dissatisfied and unhappy with the rights allocation process, but to follow any other course than sustainable management will result in the destruction of the resource to the detriment of our Country!
Honorable Minister, as the industry grew after independence the various sectors found it necessary to speak with one voice, and consequently Members organized themselves in industry associations such as the Namibian Hake Fishing Association, the Monk and Sole Association and Midwater Trawling Association just to name a few. The associations perform an important function and have contributed in building the fishing industry that we have today.
It is therefore a cause for concern that while most right holders and companies are members of their sector association; there are still several entities in each sector, which for reasons only known to themselves, chose not to join their industry association. These industry participants ride on the backs of their colleagues, who through their financial contributions cover the costs of the associations, yet quite happily benefiting from the sterling work done by the associations and the Confederation. We know all the right holders; we know who the members of each association are and we know those who are riding on others back.
I’m therefore humbly requesting all current right holders and future right holders, to join their fishing sector associations; it is just the right thing to do. Let us ALL stand together for the benefit of our vibrant industry, and the country at large.
Regarding Marine phosphate mining and as you are all aware that the issue is before the court of law, I’m pleased to inform you that the case will be heard on the 10 September 2019 at 10:00 in the High court in Windhoek. It will be open for the public and you are more than welcome to attend and support the course.
Namibia since independence has developed a world-class fishery. Hake and monk are found in the top supermarkets of Europe. Horse mackerel and snoek are an important factor in ensuring food security on the African continent and lobster and crab grace the tables of restaurants in Japan and China.
This did not come by accident but by hard work and perseverance by those running the industry and by investors with enough confidence in the industry to provide the capital required to finance the catching capacity and provide jetties and processing facilities that compare favourably with, and sometimes exceed, what we can see in Europe or elsewhere.
Last but not least, credit should go to those who breathe life into our factories. The crews who run the vessels, men and women together with the youth processing the fish in our factories. While coming from a water scarce country, and far from the ocean for that matter, they quickly adapted to the life at sea and learned to fillet and pack fish and today represent a well-qualified workforce, able to produce high quality seafood.
Namibian producers fought hard against competition from other countries to establish their product on the market. Having established themselves in these markets requires that their product is always present; otherwise their niche will be taken over by someone else. Therefore, it is of the highest relevance that TAC and quota allocations are announced timely and as early as possible to allow for proper planning in the whole value chain of fishing operations.
In this regard perhaps the time is ripe for industry and the MFMR to engage and consult in order to investigate TAC setting models that would cover periods longer than a year, thereby providing industry with the required stability and the MFMR with more time to scrutinize the information received in quota applications.
While 2019 and the rights renewal process has its challenges, industry has been forging ahead, investing in factories and vessels. While in the past, Namibia was reliant on second hand vessels it is encouraging to see that companies, especially in the hake sector, are moving away from second hand tonnage and new vessels are custom built for their respective operations.
The first of them “MFV Oshiveli” is already fishing successfully and others are already under construction or being planned by the main industry operators. Furthermore, the state of the art SeaFlower horse mackerel facility in Walvis Bay is being inaugurated shortly and other value adding facilities are also underway and will soon be a reality creating further employment and development for the national economy.
These multimillion investments are living testimony that the industry has full confidence in the resource and the long-term management and vision of our line Ministry and our Government at large.
A very significant example of such wise management is the MFMR commitment to increase the percentage of horse mackerel landed for value adding on shore. However, the horse mackerel fishery is under threat from illegal fishing as our resource is being fished by vessels from outside Namibia, which then place their product in the same markets as the Namibian operators. These illegal fishers are not paying any quota fees or Marine Resources Fund Levies and no taxes, allowing the illegal fish to undercut Namibian prices thereby damaging our fishery. The illegal fishing must be stopped sooner rather than later. The industry is most ready and available to assist when called upon wherever it can.
I would like to also call for some attention to the Large Pelagic sector, in particular the tuna fishery, which is still being affected by the oil exploration activities, which have taken up speed. Seismic surveys interfere with the migration patterns of the tuna, which try to avoid the survey areas, and therefore one can expect that the tuna sector will not really be able to develop until such time as the oil surveys are done and the old migration routes are free from disturbance again.
I would like to end by stating once again that we must be proud of our fishing industry and would like to thank and encourage our Honorable Minister, his valuable officials and all right holders, operators and employees to keep up the good work and commitment towards a successful, sustainable and responsible Namibian fishing industry.