Over 3,000 job losses in pilchard industry

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Eveline de Klerk

Walvis Bay-Over 2,000 job losses are expected in the small pelagic industry, once regarded as one of the countråy’s most lucrative fishing sectors.

This is in addition to 1,200 job losses already recorded.
Fishing companies as well as unionists yesterday said the pilchard industry is facing one of the most difficult times due to very low catches experienced for consecutive seasons now.

President of the Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union, Paulus Hango, told New Era that the union is currently negotiating retrenchment packages for employees of United Fishing who lost their jobs due to poor pilchard catches.
“It is really a dark time for the sector and many families are directly affected by these mass retrenchments,” he said.

According to Hango, some industry players did not take the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources seriously when it encouraged the entire fishing industry to diversify and add value especially to horse mackerel.
“We all know that the pilchard sector is unpredictable with the fishery itself being caught on a seasonal basis. So, if we had really added value to the other stocks we could have sustained some of the jobs and the impact would have been much less.”

“However we will make sure that the retrenched workers get what they deserve,” a worried Hango told New Era.
According to the managing director of Etosha Fishing, Pieter Greef, the industry is facing some challenging times.
“We also had to lay off people last year and now this – but we keep afloat as we import fish from Morocco to keep business afloat and sustain jobs.

This is very costly but we have to,” he said.
According to him the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allocated 14,000 metric tons of the resource, of which less than half was landed due to environmental factors.

The ministry earlier this year explained that the total allowable catch for pilchards decreased by about 17,000 metric tons from 31,000 in 2012 and 14,000 in 2016, which represents a 34.4 percent decrease.
The poor harvest might have been caused by a possible movement of the fish to deeper waters due to unusually high sea surface temperatures experienced in 2015/2016.

When contacted for comment, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Permanent Secretary, Dr Moses Maurihungirire, said the fishing industry is also being affected by climate change, which can be the cause of some of the fish stocks moving deeper into the ocean.

“It is an unfortunate situation which the ministry does not have control over. If we could have been able to fix it and guarantee jobs we would have, but this is entirely out of our hands,” he said.

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