By Chrispin Inambao
Prospects are eventually looking good for the fishing sector after it experienced a four-year spell of gloom and anxiety mainly due to soaring oil prices.
Of late, crude petroleum prices have stabilized to about US$60 per barrel from US$70.
This positive outlook came out last Friday when the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Abraham Iyambo, gave an overview of the sector for the period 2006/2007 at the Swakopmund Auditorium where he addressed a full house of fishing quota holders.
Iyambo said on top of the stability in global oil prices, equally the exchange rate at N$6.30 per US dollar in 2005 to N$6.90 in 2006 counted in favour of the sector.
The export-oriented fishing sector profits more when the US dollar appreciates and it incurs losses when the US dollar depreciates as it is paid in US dollar, among a basket of other hard currencies such as the Euro, for fish exports and for other marine products.
There is no reason why fishing quota holders should not smile all the way to their banks. The minister observed, “Improvements have been observed in fish sizes, which in turn translate into better fish prices. Also the prices of monk in particular have improved drastically. This development favours the fishing industry in these difficult times.”
And the government as a preemptive measure is undertaking a study to evaluate the external factors that have negatively affected this important segment of the economy.
“Further we have commissioned two separate studies, one dealing with value addition and marketing of seafood, and a second concentrating on the marketing of aquaculture products and cold storage facilities,” the congregants at Friday’s meeting were briefed.
Iyambo has already submitted to his Cabinet colleagues the document that deals with value addition and the marketing of seafood from the local total allowable catch (TAC).
“Through value addition and diversification of the market, the sector will ensure higher profitability and enhanced returns on investment,” the fishing sector was informed.
The fishing sector plays a vital role in terms of socio-economic contributions, and the revenue from the fish caught in 2005 was N$3.789 billion to a preliminary estimate of N$4 billion last year despite the negative external factors experienced by the sector.
Final value is estimated to have increased and this is mainly due to value addition such as efforts by the industry to produce new forms of hake products, and its quest to identify new markets and find other ways to make the industry more efficient.
Iyambo noted that since last year there has been more investment in value-addition.
Despite the positive outlook in the sector, the last survey for pilchard conducted in October 2006 indicated the scarcity of pilchard stock which “remains a huge concern” and therefore the TAC has not been set for this season pending the survey planned for April.
The planned survey to quantify the pilchard stock would last from 03 to 30 April 2007.
For the past five years the small pelagic (pilchard) sector suffered enormous financial losses and a mountain of letters have been sent requesting the minister to grant them quotas for other marine species to enable them to cover part of the costs being incurred.
This request makes sense, he said, adding it would receive his attention.
From 19 to 30 July 2006 the Orange Roughy Survey took place and the report of its findings will be tabled to the Marine Resources Advisory Council scheduled for Wednesday, though he also noted this stock still remains low.
On a more positive outlook it was noted by the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister that the monk species “currently represents one of the more healthy stocks, estimated to be around the maximum sustainable yield level,” from the survey of November 2005.
The crab stock is in a stable state with an increase in total biomass estimate of up to 16 000 tons in 2005. And the state of this resource will be assessed in a survey planned for August 2007 and whose findings will be tabled to the Marine Resources Advisory Council on 20 September 2007.
Over the last two months, frequent periods of calm weather to the north occurred, resulting in the down-welling of oxygen-rich surface water onto the reefs. With the extension of oxygen-rich water columns, this allows rock lobsters to move into deeper water where they are less accessible to traps.
And the transfer of a proportion of the quota to southern grounds as a result of the inaccessibility in the central to northern grounds will continue to be monitored weekly.