THE safety of fishermen and the vessels they operate in Namibian waters is crucial for the fishing industry to thrive and to continue to be one of the biggest contributors to the national economy.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, spoke at the International Maritime Organisation’s Minsiterial Conference on the Cape Town Agreement currently under way in Torremolinos, Spain and said Namibia takes the fishing industry extremely seriously and because of this have invested heavily in infrastructure, facilities and equipment to ensure constant monitoring of the entire Namibian Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Conference aims to promote ratification of the Cape Town Agreement, a key IMO treaty for safety of fishing vessels. The entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will help deter the proliferation of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, by establishing international safety standards for fishing vessels.
Minister Esau travelled to Torremolinos to represent the Namibian Government when the Agreement will be ratified and implemented.
The Conference is co-hosted by IMO and the Government of Spain, with the kind support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Minister Esau’s address at the IMO conference in Spain reads as follows:
I wish to congratulate the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the Kingdom of Spain for organizing this important Ministerial Conference, and which includes kind support from the FAO and the PEW Charitable Trusts.
The Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1997, otherwise known as the Cape Town Agreement (CTA) of 2012, is an important instrument for ensuring safety of fishing crew at sea, and fighting Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.
Namibia is a major fishing nation, where fisheries is the second largest forex earner after mining, and sustains close to 17,000 jobs directly, and more than three times that number indirectly. In Namibia, we take fisheries seriously, and have heavily invested in infrastructure, facilities and equipment to ensure constant monitoring of the entire Namibian EEZ.
I am happy to state that, as a result of our stringent monitoring, control and surveillance measures, which includes constant on-board Fisheries Observer Program, there is minimal IUU fishing in Namibian EEZ.
Namibia considers fishers as the main players in our fisheries sector, because they are responsible for the first step in unlocking the economic value of our fisheries. We are therefore implementing several policies to enhance greater economic inclusivity of our fishers in the fishery, including increased equity participation of fishers in fishing rights.
I therefore believe that safety must always come first. Ensuring that our fishers can go out to work and come back to their families not just alive but also whole, and healthy, is a non-negotiable right.
In this regard, Namibia is keen to ratify the Cape Town Agreement of 2012. I wish to congratulate Spain for being the 11th Country to ratify this important agreement – and I want to add that Namibia will soon be a signatory – we are speeding up our internal consultations to ensure that we ratify this agreement as soon as possible.
The Cape Town Agreement contains important flexibilities, like extended periods of compliance, which may be up to 10 years for some requirements such as radio-communication equipment, and vessel size exclusions, such as exemption of all vessels below 24 meters in length. The vast majority of most of our fishing vessels are compliant with the Cape Town Agreement, since several of these provisions are part of the vessel approval requirements under Namibian law.
I am happy to note that IMO has a capacity building program, which assists member states and their fishing industry to understand and prepare for the practical challenges of implementation of the Cape Town Agreement, such as understanding the costs involved, and preparing for the increased administrative data and information compilation necessitated by reporting procedures under this agreement. Namibia will be making a formal request to IMO for this capacity building program as soon as possible, to assist in the finalization of the ratification process.
In Conclusion, I wish to reiterate Namibia’s commitment to join the family of IMO member states who are determined to ensure that our fishing vessels remain watertight, weather tight, strong, and stable. Our Namibian ocean is rough, hence it is in our interest to ensure that our fishing vessels are seaworthy at all times, and ultimately ensure the safety of our fishers at all times.