Stock-taking the Ocean

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Marine biology scientists are currently meeting in the coastal town of Swakopmund to take stock of research data on the state of commercially important marine fish stocks, relevant environmental parameters and the impact environmental fluctuations have on fish stocks. Officially opening the Annual Research Meeting early this week, Permanent Secretary Nangula Mbako said the collection and analysis of fisheries data and the marine environment is crucial as a source of information not only for the Ministry, but interested stakeholders as well. She noted that during the next two days, the research that comes out of the meeting should be of value to decision-makers. “Your role as scientists is to provide scientific information to the decision-makers. If the information you provide is to be of any meaningful use to the decision-making process and to achieve the required operational objectives, it is essential that the information you provide must be accurate, complete and objective,” explained Mbako. It is hoped that such deliberations will further capture and store data for the purpose of establishing a centralized data bank system for the Directorate of Resource Management under the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. There was concern over the fact that some staff members are leaving this directorate for greener pastures. The Permanent Secretary noted that the issue of staff leaving needs to be looked at seriously through motivation, improved work relations and possibly through staff retention strategies. “In many cases the leaving of staff has resulted in the low institutional memory, however skilful and proficient young scientists have joined the directorate and you continue to provide required advice for the sustainable utilisation as well as conservation of our living marine resources,” she added. It has become apparent that marine research should be closely linked to the ever-changing challenges facing the marine and fisheries sector locally and internationally. In view of this, the directorate, while focusing on the strategic plan, should also pay attention to timely stock taking as well. “It has become necessary to take a look at our activities in this directorate, realizing the fact that we are currently living in a world plagued by changes taking place at alarming rates,” said Mbako, adding that there is a need to stay abreast with the changing times. A similar annual research meeting was held in 1997 and 2000 with the objective of allowing scientists to present papers on aspects of the environment, biology, life history, population dynamics, assessment and management of resources. Ultimately this culminated in the papers being presented in the publication of the 23rd Volume of the South African Journal titled: “A Decade of Namibian Fisheries Science.” Generally, the Ministry of Fisheries relies on the Directorate of Resource Management for research information that would assist in determining the Total Allowable Catches for commercially important species, aiding in formulating policy on harvesting activities and techniques as well as promotion of the regional and international co-operation on shared fish stocks, including what impact the changing environment has on these fish stocks.