The trend of fishing right holders selling their fishing quotas in a bid to become overnight millionaires defeats government’s efforts to empower Namibians in the fishing sector, the Hake Association of Namibia(HAN) has said.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has in recent years condemned the practise by right holders who prefer to sell their quotas instead of taking a real interest in getting to know the operations of the industry.
HAN chairperson Matti Amukwa said this during an exclusive interview with this publication, adding that those who have no intention to actively participate in the fishing sector should make way for others.
“This is a very sad habit, but I think it is now water under the bridge.
The ministry has put up certain criteria you need to meet in order to stay in the industry. You have to be active in the process because the Ministry feels it is an injustice to just sell quotas. The ministry is trying to Namibianise the industry so it defeats the purpose. Our people must be patient and invest in fishing and focus on long-term returns.
He added: “If you are selling, then maybe you do not want to stay in the industry. You are simply disqualifying yourself should you want to come back. Next time your right will not be renewed.”
Amukwa, who was recently elected as chairperson of the association for the seventh term, said the association currently does not have any pertinent plaguing issues.
“When we have issues we sort them out instantly. We have meetings where we advise each other and sort out any issue. Where there are policies that are not fitting the current situation, we call for amendments instead of laboring the issue,” he said.
A few years back, Amukwa said policies related to the distribution of hake are still very open to discrimination.
“It has been a challenge. We did not know the criteria used to for one to get a certain number of quotas, but now the ministry came up with scorecards with different criteria. So based on those scorecards, one has an idea on how the process is managed now.
In 2010, 8956 of the 13 380 employees in the fishing sector worked in the hake sector.
A 2012 government fisheries report indicated that it is felt that the current allocation is not equitable, predictable or transparent.
“Wetfish factories are becoming less competitive because they have to procure quotas at an increased price.
The profitability of sea frozen operations is much higher than the land based operations, which require far more investment and employment,” stated the report.
At the time, the report that was compiled by the Law Reform and Development Commission indicated that in the hake industry, the 70% (landed wet) – 30% (sea frozen) quota allocation to right holders needs to be re-examined.
“Currently the quota is not evenly distributed among operators in terms of receiving rights for one or the other, or receiving quotas for both,” stated the report at the time.
Amukwa denied claims that fishing firms are not adhering to the 70/30 policy which stipulates that 70 percent of the hake quota must be wet.
“I can tell you that most companies do comply.
The main idea behind the policy was to address the high rate of unemployment because it will help to create jobs on land instead of everything taking place on the fishing vessels.
In other words, the land based work creates more jobs and at the same time adding value to their product which also increase the company’s revenue,” he said, adding that ministry should start thinking of introducing the policy in the horse mackerel sector to create more employment.
Hake is one of the least competitive fish species due to the production cost inequality created for the non-regulated and unfair split between Wet and Freezer quota allocations.
“Such an unequal split between the different right holders in this sector is affecting fair competition and reducing the market price of Frozen Hake in the main markets. Furthermore, the split is disadvantaging the Land Based Factories, which are the main employment creators in the Fishing Industry,” according to the report.
Amukwa believes the industry has stabilized on the labor relations front but fish stocks remains a concern.
“We did not have any labour unrest issues in years, apart from the illegal strike in 2015. This was sorted in the courts.
Since then things have been stable. Regarding fisheries resources, we are happy.
It is being managed responsibly apart from the pilchard which has declined.
There has been a moratorium of three years to see how it recovers. So we are hoping for the best,” he said.
With the fisheries ministry set to open up the application process for new rights later this year, Amukwa said “we expect to continue having a stable and secure industry.”
Namibia has one of the leading fisheries sectors in the world with annual marine landings of about 550 000 tonnes worth about N$7 billion.
The country’s fisheries sector ranks third in Africa and 30th globally. The industry is the third largest contributor of the country’s GDP.