The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, reiterated the government’s position that it has no problem with trawlers catching fish off the coast as long as they are licensed and comply and operate in accordance with existing maritime regulations.
He made it clear in no uncertain terms that fishing trawlers should not catch what they are not supposed to catch and that they should not pose any threat to the country’s marine life. This warning follows after various fishing industry stakeholders raised their concern over the acquisition of a super trawler by one of the horse-mackerel right holders in March.
Fears within the fishing sector are that the super trawler that catches far in excess of what other trawlers are able to catch could decimate the marine resources. The European Union (EU)-registered super trawler, Dirk Diederik, was licensed in March to catch 10 000 tonnes of horse-mackerel in Namibian waters.
In an exclusive interview with New Era last week on-board the Sedov – the sail training Russian ship that recently docked at Walvis Bay – Esau said the ministry has various legislative tools and personnel in place to protect local fish from being over-fished.
Esau said the issue at hand is the serious competition that exists in the fishing industry. “In the past, we only had two vessels operating in the fishing industry and everybody made use of those two vessels,” said Esau. “However since we broke up the monopoly, previous role players realised that competition has increased and profits are not what they used to be. We cannot create a monopolistic market so that only a certain group of players can benefit. The industry must be competitive to get more players on board to create more jobs and add value to our natural resources,” Esau told New Era.
According to him the ministry would continuously conduct fishing patrols and surveillance in order to protect the country’s marine resources. “The depletion of Namibia’s resources will not be allowed by all means by the government, because we have eyes and ears on all vessels,” said the minister. The government is very tough when it comes to licensing, as well as adherence to the provisions of the Marine Act and the preservation of the country’s marine resources. “Therefore, we encourage all industry holders to comply or face the consequences,” said Esau.
“We also encourage trawling companies and (fishing) right holders to enter into catch arrangements. However, we also want to see right holders acquiring ownership of vessels since ownership means empowerment,” he stressed.
On the issue of super trawlers depleting Namibian marine resources, Esau said fishery observers are present on every fishing vessel. “As soon as anyone contravenes our rules and regulations or catches what they are not supposed to catch, we are informed by these observers and take the necessary steps against such companies,” he explained.