By Emma Kakololo WALVIS BAY Government yesterday announced a moratorium on new fishing rights for the next five years at least, unless a drastic change in resources occurs. Dr Abraham Iyambo, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources made this announcement during his annual address to the industry captains and related stakeholders at Walvis Bay yesterday. He said at the moment biological data, especially the too many small hake catches, indicate that there was no need for new rights to be awarded. Iyambo also said that of the total 33 rights of exploitation evaluated and due to expire end 2007 and early 2008, government will only give preference to those that have shown real commitment to job creation, innovation, value-added processing and clear long-term strategies. These rights include 14 hake, two monk, six small pelagic, four horse mackerel, two large pelagic, two crab, two seals and one guano. “Decision on rights has been extended and would be communicated by end February. For rights where data is still needed, decision will be communicated by end April 2006. We want to keep only efficient, innovative, competitive companies with clear business plans,” he stated. He said in 2004, only 530 000 tonnes of fish was landed, while on-shore processing added only around N$1 billion to basic value of fish landed. This year, a lot needs to be done in terms of value addition and job creation. “Let 2006 be a year of industrial peace, efficiency, productivity and dialogue,” he urged. Because of the too many small hake catches, the 12-month season will be reduced to 10 months, with the two months of September and October regarded as closed season to allow the hake to recover. This is also in the best interest of the company survival and workers should be informed. “If five percent of hake is 35 cm, you must stop fishing and steam at least 10 nautical miles. The catching of too many small fish indicates that the selectivity devices are not effective. The solution to this is that all selectivity devices will be discontinued,” he stressed. “The total allowable catch (TAC) for the hake will be set below 140 000 tonnes for the next seasons; and the retaining of existing ban on trailing shallower than 200 m,” he stressed further. He added that future TAC would be issued on 70 percent wet and 30 percent freezer for the hake sector commencing 2006/7 seasons. This was because the wet fish creates more jobs as it requires processing immediately when brought to land. Iyambo said area closures would also be introduced where consistently high proportions of small hake are reported, which would be closely monitored and scientists should accompany commercial vessels on a regular basis. “Government policy is to encourage on shore processing, certain areas will be designated “wet-fish only” trawling grounds. Precise locations are yet to be determined, which will also be closely monitored.” With regard to the monk sector, he noted that on average 20 percent of the monk TAC was taken by the hake trawl, and that there was less monk TAC available for monk rights holders. He called for a stakeholders’ consultation before May 01, 2006 to urgently look into ways to consider the reduction of monk by-catch for hake trawlers. On the low stock level and unpredictable nature of small pelagic stock, he said current attempts to source raw material from other countries were highly laudable. “Something has changed in the Benguela ecosystem that not even scientists can tell. There is just no simple answer to the problem of pilchard stock recovery.” He also noted that there were too many foreign chartered vessels in the mid-water trawl sector as well as the large pelagic sector, and that government has decided to licence only one foreign chartered vessel at any one time per right holder. Greater management controls would also be introduced for foreign chartered vessels. For the large pelagic sector (shark, tuna and sword fish) he said from the 23 chartered vessels operating, only three are Namibian, which also calls for greater management controls on foreign charters sourcing larger pelagic stock. Government will also introduce levies on pelagic sharks, which were mostly targeted instead of swordfish and tuna, he said. Iyambo further announced plans to review the N$25 levy per tonne in the line fish sector, which includes knob, snoek and steeenbras, stating the levy was too low, while employment was also low in this sector, with virtually no value addition. “Commercial line fishery should focus on snoek. Number of vessels should also be reduced,” he advised. He further announced that after March 21, 2007, no vessels would be allowed to fish without an Automatic Location Communicator (ALC), as these were necessary for monitoring, control and surveillance of the vessels. “All companies yet to order ALC must give plans to the ministry by end March 2006. After March 21, 2007, no vessel will be allowed to fish without ALC installed. Simply no fishing license,” he stated. Iyambo also urged companies still owing fisheries observers to pay their dues.
29.4 ° C