While quotas on a variety of species in Namibia have been decided and vessels have commenced fishing, some re-writing of the quota system in the country has created uncertainty. The Namibian minister of fisheries and marine resources, Bernard Esau, said on May 19 he would be releasing a portion of the reserve quota within the next two weeks, New Erareported.
"I understand that the quota awarded now are not reserve quotas, but but normal quotas which were still pending," one source from a fishing company operating in the country told Undercurrent News on May 23.
"[The issue in] Namibia is a political issue; the fishing season is officially underway," the source told Undercurrent on May 22. "What happens is that the ministry is implementing new formulas of calculation and adjudication [of the quota] and there is also some indecision," the source explained.
"It is not something that has an easy explanation and being mainly a political matter, I prefer not to comment further," he added.
The minister said he is intending to release the quota in line with the "scorecard", New Era reported.
Esau made the announcement at Walvis Bay last Friday while briefing the fishing sector on the progress made on mechanisms currently being developed for pro rata quota allocation.
According to Esau, more time is needed in order to finalize the scorecard, and he hinted that the process will be completed within the next three months.
“In this regard I wish to inform all right holders that I shall be releasing some portion of the reserve quota within the next fortnight in order to facilitate your fishing operations,” he said.
The minister then clarified that the criteria to be considered in allocating quotas to right holders in the seven fisheries controlled by total allowable catches is provided for in Sections 33 and 39 of the Marine Resources Act.
These fisheries are horse mackerel, hake, monk, pilchard, rock lobster, crab and seals.
He added that the ministry is therefore not embarking on a process to change the law, but rather to give meaning through weighting and scoring specific criteria of allocating quotas to right holders as specified in the Fisheries Act.
“Our consultations in the past on this topic tended to provoke quite divergent reactions from some stakeholders. While not discounting any views, open discussions were held and mutual conclusions arrived at. Our deliberations and consultations were not a platform for exploring philosophical views surrounding allocation of fishing quotas, but instead concentrated on the necessary steps to empower fishing enterprises and by extension the entire industry,” the minister explained.
The ministry has been allocating quotas to right holders in these fisheries based on information received from right holders, according to criteria in line with the Act.
However, the criteria as applied until now were not clearly defined to indicate all aspects required, and also not weighted. The performance of various right holders could therefore not be quantified comprehensively.
In recent months, fishing firms operating in the country have been waiting to hear news on the quota assigned from the government.
Spanish vertically integrated firm Grupo Nueva Pescanova catches about 20% of the country's hake quota, CEO Ignacio Gonzalez Hernandez told Undercurrent, adding that the firm had its way to defend their quotas in Namibia, pointing to the number of people they employed in the country.
"In Africa we are present in Namibia and South Africa, where we have 15 vessels and we catch 30,000 [metric] tons of hake," he said.
According to Gonzalez, Nueva Pescanova's operations in Namibia generate about 2,200 jobs. The catch is processed in the country, before being sent for retail in Europe.
Moreover, Pescanova will invest €42.5 million ($46.3m) to renew its fleet in Africa.
Spanish family-owned fishing company Copemar aims to strengthen its collaboration with its fishing partners in Namibia and in the Falklands to consolidate its position in European markets, Sonia Fernandes, sales director at Copemar, told Undercurrent at the Brussels' seafood show last month.
The Vigo-based firm has a joint venture with the firms Seacope in Namibia to fish hake. “Production in Namibia will depend on the fishing quotas."