Fishing Sector Uneasy

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By Emma Kakololo WALVIS BAY Some representatives of the fishing sector have reacted with scepticism to a recent raft of seemingly radical measures prescribed by Government primarily to reverse the decline in the fishing industry, a key sector of the economy. Most of the main players are foreigners whose vessels form the bulk of the fishing fleet along Namibia’s coastline. In the large pelagic sector alone, a mere three out of the 23 vessels are Namibian-owned and the remaining 20 are in foreign hands. The Town Hall of Walvis Bay on Monday was filled with tension as Dr Abraham Iyambo, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources recounted the new measures for the sector. One delegate asked whether Government would pay workers’ salaries during the closed seasonal months of September and October to allow the hake stock to recover. Iyambo told the meeting that because of too many small hake catches, the 12-month season would be reduced to 10 months to allow the fish to recover. “In countries such as Denmark, government pays salaries to workers,” the man argued. Iyambo’s reply was that Namibia should not be compared to Europe, in particular Denmark, as each country has its own unique situation. He added that for Namibia the issue was too many hake catches, and for the survival of the company, there was an urgent need to protect the species. Another issue raised was that of the high number of foreign-chartered vessels who rather target sharks instead of the swordfish and tuna, thus failing to catch the ICCAT-issued swordfish quota. Iyambo advised them to stop this, saying it was of little socio-economic benefit to the country. He said Government was going to impose penalties on offenders. Iyambo also felt that in the mid-water trawl sector, only one foreign-chartered vessel would be licensed at any one time per right holder, and that greater management controls would be introduced for foreign-chartered vessels dominating this area. “Namibianisation plans for crew of Namibian-owed vessels have been submitted and are being evaluated. There are too many foreign chartered vessels,” said the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister. The fishing sector, the backbone of the Namibian economy’s growth stood at minus 10.8 percent in 1999 and minus 3.7 percent in 2002. The level of production weakened the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP). The growth in the sector’s contribution to GDP was at 3.7 percent in 1999 and 3.0 percent in 2002. Iyambo emphasised the importance of companies to create jobs, cautioning that in terms of fishing rights evaluation, Government would only give preference to companies that have shown real commitment to job creation among others. “If there are issues of concern, we are here to engage for the sake of the industry. If something is not workable, convince the minister. If you cannot convince the minister, I will stick to my guns. I get sick of this thing that we don’t have a dialogue,” he stressed. Iyambo said for the next five years, Government would not give new fishing rights unless there was a drastic change in resources.