THE controversial harvesting of different species of clams, commonly known as white mussels, on the beaches south of Walvis Bay, have been suspended with immediate effect.
After Informanté Facebook revealed the activities of several men dressed in wetsuits on the beaches of the area commonly known as Paaltjies, coastal residents expressed their disgust with the harvesting and described it as another example of unabated plundering of Namibian resources. The public outcry led to the immediate suspension on Wednesday of the harvesting by a company situated in Walvis Bay.
José Luis Fernandez, the owner of Fermar Seafood CC, and holder of an exploratory licence issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) to harvest and export large amounts of clams along the Namibian coast, confirmed that he was notified by officials that his license was suspended.
“Although I don’t have a document in my hand that the licence was suspended the ministry’s official notified me and I immediately withdrew my harvesting team from the beach,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said one of the clauses in the agreement he signed with the MFMR states that the Executive Director of the MFMR, Dr. Moses Maurihungirire, can at any time suspend or cancel the exploratory licence.
Controversy erupted at the start of the week when several men dressed in wetsuits were found on different occasions along the beaches between Pelican Point and the boundary to the Namib Naukluft National Park north of Sandwich Harbour while busy harvesting relatively large amounts of white mussels.
Since then Fernandez, a Walvis Bay resident and businessman, produced the exploratory licence issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) as well as documented proof that he is allowed to export his catch to foreign shores to deter critics and to keep people from harassing his harvesting team on the beaches.
Fernandez has positioned his business in the local fishing industry to buy oysters and crayfish from production companies which he then sells on international markets. It was his plan to develop a market for clams and to eventually farm with the molluscs.
With regards to the clams Fernandez said he spent three years researching the viability of mussels as an exploitable resource in Namibia before approaching the MFMR with an application for an exploratory licence.
Fernandez said the licence allowed him to harvest mussels all along the Namibian coast and that it was his intention to expand the operation to the beaches north of Lüderitz in the near future.
The license allowed him to harvest white mussel (donax serra), Pullet Carpet Shell (venerupis corrugate) and Otter Shell (lutraria lutraria). His licence further allowed him to catch mussels with a minimum size of 28 millimetres which is 10 millimetres smaller than the size allowed for surf fishermen harvesting for own use. Besides the manual harvesting by hand, the license also allowed him to work from a boat in deeper water with the aid of mechanical rakes.
According to Fernandez he was allowed to self regulate but that fisheries inspectors regularly visited his harvesters on the beaches where they worked and also at the property where other workers prepare the mussels for the export market.
He said that the plan was, that after the two year period of the exploratory licence expired, the results of his production methods, the yield of his catch as well as the possible revenue potential from international markets would have been analysed by the MFMR to determine if clams or mussels could be viably and sustainably exploited as a marine resource as part of the local fishing industry.