Sunday, June 17, 2012

Namibia's Fisheries Minister Ignores Scientists

The Namibian newspaper reported on Friday 15 June 2012 that Nambia' Fisheries Minister, Mr Bernard Esau, elected to ignore the advices of his hake scientists and the fisheries advisory council and allocated substantially higher hake and monkfish quotas than recommended.

Nambia's hake scientists recommended a hake TAC of 130,000 tons; the advisory council recommended 140,000 tons and the Minister decided to set a TAC of 170,000 tons for hake. With respect to monkfish, the Minister added 4,000 tons to the 10,000 ton recommended TAC. 

The Minister justified his decision essentially because he held the view that catches were good during 2011, companies had to be able catch through the year and new fishing quotas were allocated in both the hake and monkfish sectors.

The TAC increases come in the face of continuing concerns with regard to the integrity of fisheries management in Namibia. It was recently reported how a politically connected Spanish businessman and fishing magnate openly bragged about his close friendship with Namibia's political elite. José Luis Bastos, a Spanish fishing magnate, was blunt: “We are over-catching hake, and I don’t have a problem telling the [fisheries] minister this.”

And Namibia's hake industry association remains concerned about erratic catch rates. The Namibian Economist reported in May that the allocation of the new quota which runs from 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2013 with a closed season during October, is full of uncertainty due to various factors including the sustainability of the sharp increase in the TAC.

And perhaps something for the South African fisheries department to note very clearly, the Namibians are desperately seeking to penetrate the European and Australian markets but without MSC certification, access to these lucrative markets remains a struggle. 

Mr Matti Amukwa, chairperson of the Hake Association of Namibia, is on record as stating that  "we need MSC certification if our industry is to take full advantage of those markets as they are very sensitive to the issue of Responsible and Sustainable Fisheries." Mr Amukwa noted that they needed to move away from their current Asian market bias, especially China, as it wanted only "raw products and are not yet prepared to buy value added fish such as hake."

So while Namibia desperately seeks out access to the lucrative European market and away from the cheap Chinese market, South Africa's fisheries department is happy to publicly state that South Africa's hake trawl fishery should not be overly concerned with MSC certification and should instead look to China. 

Namibia's fisheries minister should however cease to ignore sound scientific advice if his country is to attain MSC certification for its hake fishery and access to EU, Australia and North American markets.

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