Fishermen’s Plight at Sea

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By Emma Kakololo WALVIS BAY Namibian fishermen allegedly die every year at sea and the accusing finger points to fishing companies that refuse to take sick workers back to shore for medical treatment. Last year, two fishermen who worked for a Walvis Bay-based fishing company died in two separate accidents. The two felt sick while at sea and the captain of the boat allegedly refused to steam to dry land so that they could go to hospital. “When they felt sick, the captain refused to take them back to the shore to receive medical treatment, saying he did not want to waste fuel. We want to know, can a captain decide on a person’s life?” Kamanya Immanuel, a former deckhand asked the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Abraham Iyambo who was at the port on Monday to address members of the fishing industry. Immanuel and seven other colleagues, amongst them an engineer, who worked for Rainbow Trawling fishing company were dismissed in 2003 after defying a company directive to throw back into the sea, some of the fish (small fish and by-catch) they had caught. They were reportedly also instructed to dump fuel, a directive they also refused to carry out. The two workers who died at sea did not work for Rainbow Trawling fishing company, but another company whose name has been provided to us. Immanuel said they got fed up after they realised that they were not going to get adequate compensation by dumping the fish. The catch-size determined how much they were going to be paid – the bigger the catch size, the more money they got. “Every year, we are losing many Namibians. (name omitted) is not the only fishing company. There are many others. “They keep the person inside the boat and when they see the person is about to die, they bring him outside. Even if they assist the family with funeral costs, this will not bring back the person.” Concerning his firing from Rainbow Trawling, he asked the minister: “What is the ministry doing to protect workers (whistleblowers) so that they will not loose their jobs like us? “The ministry should take measures to protect those who assist Government to protect the natural resources. Our bread was taken away from the table, our families are suffering,” he urged. In response, Iyambo said people like Immanuel have suffered a lot and it was about time that their woes came to an end. He said because of the nature of the incident, the matter was passed on to the Office of the Attorney General as well as the Prosecutor General. “The case is with the Police,” he assured From the ministry’s side, he said the ministry was not going to extend the fishing rights of the guilty parties. “The company now wants extension of that right, after throwing fish away. They applied for extension. For two years now, these people have been with no bread, this is painful to me as well, as minister. “I have a serious problem for me to consider granting that company an extension, unless something falls from heaven to make me change my mind, which I doubt,” he stated. We were unable to obtain comment from Rainbow Trawling company as well as the company whose cap- tain allegedly refused to bring sick employees back to shore at the time of going to press. Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries Nangula Mbako said that her ministry would follow up the matter with Immanuel to identify the name of companies he is accusing of denying workers medical treatment. “We will also follow up with the right holders. Should a person fall sick while at sea, they should consider taking the person back to the shore to receive medical treatment,” she stated.