By Surihe Gaomas WALVIS BAY The marine by-catch being wasted by 700 sea-going vessels in the absence of fishing observers is leading to direct wastage of scarce natural resources. Since the strike involving fisheries inspectors started on January 27, all fishing vessels go out to the deep waters without being monitored and dump thousands upon thousands of metric tonnes of fish into the waters. It is reported that a ship can keep up to 22 000 tonnes of fish stock. Out of this, it is estimated that half of the amount caught always includes by-catches. The latter is allegedly dumped so that the ship keeps on fishing until it acquires its total allowable catch. With the absence of fishing observers such activities mostly by foreign vessels might cause great harm to the country’s economy. As a member of the fisheries patrol, president of the Namibia National workers Union Risto Kapenda voiced this concern over the weekend when he addressed members at the start of a two-day Erongo Regional Conference in Walvis Bay on Saturday. “The nation has heard of rotten food intended for flood victims in the Caprivi; I do not see the difference between that and the current wastage of fish at sea due to the absence of fisheries inspectors on fishing vessels,” explained Kapenda, adding that this can be called “economic sabotage”. The trade unionist said the State is losing millions of dollars in revenue, while the culprits who dump dead fish back into the waters get away with the act unpunished. This, Kapenda said, is hypocrisy on the part of Government. “Thousands and thousands of metric tonnes of fish is being dumped in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) every hour as the sea-going inspectors are on strike,” added Kapenda, saying more needs to be done to save the country’s natural resources that are currently going down the drain. The union leader was also of the opinion that the by-catches if brought to the shore and sold to the public can help assist in generating money for the striking fishing observers. Speaking at the same occasion, Governor of the Erongo Region Samuel Nuuyoma said that unions must see to it that workers do not remain labourers at multi-national companies and fight for salary increments, but they must have ownership through shares in those companies. Currently negotiations between the various stakeholders are going on at a snail’s pace, which unions see as unacceptable. Close to 220 workers have been on strike for the past couple of weeks calling for improved salaries. When the New Era spoke to the General Secretary of the Namibia Public Worker’s Union (Napwu) Peter Nevonga on the issue, he said that negotiations are still on-going. He was optimistic that an amicable solution would be reached soon. Although Nevonga could not divulge much on the current situation, he alluded to the fact that the problem was much bigger than anyone could imagine. The demand for a salary increment has been brought to the attention of the Conciliation Board. Reports say that the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Abraham Iyambo responded to the petition of the disgruntled workers last week, adding that the matter is reportedly receiving “maximum attention”. A meeting is scheduled for later this week between board members and the management of the Fisheries Observer Agency in Walvis Bay. The minister at a press conference last week in the capital said “the petition contains two separate issues, the salary increment and alleged malpractices. These two issues have been divided and each will be handled on its own.” The strike will today enter its 18th day.
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