Namibia mulls overhaul of fishing rights system

Namibia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is proposing an overhaul of the current fishing rights awarding system to ensure transparency and accountability, as the country’s seafood industry seeks to shed off a lingering image of corruption and opacity in allocation of the fish harvesting quotas.

Fisheries Minister Albert Kawana, who was recently confirmed to his position, replacing his predecessor Benhard Esau, said the government is keen on finalizing the 2018 quota allocations, which were delayed as the ministry grappled with integrity issues linked to state-owned company National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor).

Minister Kawana told The Namibian 185 new seafood companies, out of the 5,176 that applied in 2018 to harvest fish in Namibia’s marine waters, have been selected for the award of fishing rights this year. He said 104 of the companies are new applicants, while 81 have existing fishing rights that will now be renewed.

However, to achieve professionalism in the award of the annual fishing quota allocations, Kawana said the current Fisheries and Marine Resources Act has to be amended to accommodate some of pending recommendations on how to make the process more responsive to the Namibian fishing industry's long-term objective of creating more jobs and expanding current value-addition levels.

The delayed award of fishing quotas in Namibia had previously been linked to the staggered expiration dates of existing rights held by some companies, and also reluctance by other seafood firms to submit updated reports on their annual performance before applying for renewal of their rights.

The fishing rights applicants had initially been given a deadline of end of February 2019 to comply either with fishing rights application criteria, or submission of data on their performance for those that had existing quotas at the time to pave way for the completion of the process.

Esau, the former minister, was replaced after he was linked to claims of wrongdoing in matters related to previous fishing rights allocations. He had in the past insisted the quotas could only benefit companies that demonstrated capacity to create jobs and expand their value-addition investments in Namibia.

Meanwhile, Kawana has also been reported saying fishing quotas formerly awarded to Fishcor are to be auctioned and the proceeds channeled to support Namibia’s economic growth.

"The auction will ensure government collects enough revenue and enhances transparency in the allocation of government quotas as opposed to the old approach," Kawana was quoted saying.

In 2018, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources had capped the total allowable catch for horse mackerel at 349,000 metric tons and another 154,000 metric tons for hake stocks.

The proposal to overhaul the fishing rights allocation system comes at a time when Namibia’s drive to add value to 70 percent of all fish that lands on its shores remains elusive. 

Photo courtesy of ingehogenbijl/Shutterstock 


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