Pinning the eco-sustainable ‘blue label’ on Namibian hake

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Eveline de Klerk

Swakopmund – Namibia wants to have all hake and hake products that originate from Namibia’s ocean bearing the internationally recognised ‘blue label’ badge on its packaging, which is a certification to indicate that the seafood product being sold was fished in a sustainable manner.

The so-called ‘blue label’ is the certification by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the world’s first sustainable seafood certification programme to achieve recognition from the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).

Currently the only hake products sold in Namibia featuring the blue MSC label certification on their packaging are those sold by I&J fishing group, a South African fishing company.

It is for this reason that Namibia’s hake industry attended a workshop on Monday this week with the MSC experts to understand the process of certification and eco-labelling programme and its benefits for Namibia.

“This will open up opportunities and unlock new markets for our industry in the countries currently closed for our hake just because it’s not a certified fishery,” said Matti Amukwa, the chairperson of the Namibia’s Hake Association.

There are currently over 22,000 products listed in stores across 85 countries worldwide that feature the blue MSC label, of certified sustainable fishing. The MSC sets credible standards for sustainable fishing and supply chain traceability that allows the consumer to trace the product back to its origin.

The certification of Namibia’s hake fishery would allow Namibia further access to north European markets, such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

The MSC certification would also ensure that Namibia is included in the list of few countries around the world whose management practices have been independently assessed and certified as sustainable and eco-friendly.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhardt Esau said the certification process would allow for improved marketability of Namibian hake as sustainable certified fish product at consumer level.

He said this “in turn will allow the hake industry greater market access and trade opportunities, to the benefit of the country’s economy. This will mean more jobs and an increase in foreign exchange that will be a massive boost for our industry and the government.”

“We are now on the right path to get real value for our prime products and real foreign earnings for our country. This has been long overdue,” Amukwa said.

Hanna Norbury, the London-based capacity building manager at MSC, said the workshop in Swakopmund introduced the MSC’s fisheries standards to the Namibian industry to better understand the requirements and the various criteria that the hake fishery would be assessed against in the coming months.

“We also looked at the performance indicators for the three principles of the standards, the status of the stocks, impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem, as well as the indicators for effective management,” Norbury explained.

Esau said the fisheries ministry is keen to enhance partnership in fisheries management across the world, to open up new trade opportunities and further enhance value addition of Namibia’s fisheries.

The MSC Fisheries Standard is based in part on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisations’ Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing (CCRF). The code was established in 1995 as a framework for international efforts to encourage sustainable fishing activity in harmony with the environment.

The GSSI benchmark, based on United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products, includes international performance indicators for governance, operational management, supply chain traceability and auditing.

It was developed in consultation with environmental NGOs, global businesses, independent experts, government and intergovernmental organisations. The code provides principles and standards for the conservation, management and development of fisheries around the world.

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