…Plans to subject trawlers to obtain environmental clearance before fishing
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has revealed that plans are underway to subject all companies catching fish in Namibian waters using fishing trawlers to apply for an environmental clearance certificate before they can be allowed to fish.
Scientific findings have discovered that bottom trawling, an industrial fishing method that drags large, heavy nets across the seafloor stirs up huge, billowing plumes of sediment on shallow seafloors that can be seen from space. Following scientific studies showing that bottom trawling kills vast numbers of corals, sponges, fishes and other animals, the method of fishing has been banned in many places in recent years. But despite these findings, environmental commissioner Teofelus Nghitila says little attention is being paid to the damage caused by the trawlers.
“Fishing trawlers are equally damaging [referring to marine phosphate and deep sea diamond mining] to the marine ecosystem but nobody is saying anything. We will subject them to acquire clearance certificates in the future,” Nghitila said in an exclusive interview with The Patriot this week. He said: “This is not coming from us but from the public. However, we are still amending the legislation. We will discuss the matter with the fisheries ministry, because as much as they want others to do the right things, they ignore these things within their sector. Fishermen do not want to do EIA (environmental impact assessment), but if people want that to be done then there is no choice because the whole process is also damaging the environment. But the whole process is still at an early stage.”
In 2005, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean banned trawling in the Mediterranean Sea below depths of 1 000 metres, and the United States closed vast deep-sea areas off Alaska to bottom trawling. In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly began deliberations on a trawling moratorium on the high seas, which cover 45% of the Earth’s surface, and South Pacific nations effectively putting an end to trawling in an area amounting to 14 percent of the Earth’s surface. A fishing industry player said the fishing industry will not oppose such a move because “the industry is already adhering to sustainable fishing methods”.
“We have heard it before; all I am saying is that our scientific data is there for everyone to scrutinise. There are certain areas where we cannot fish because of the way the environment is, and in the areas we fish the trawlers are equipped with trolleys that roll on top of the seabed so that it does not cause much damage.
There are ways and means that one can work on minimising the effects on the environment and the fishing industry is doing that,” said the official who chose to remain anonymous. The official further said: “We are not only shouting and downplaying our effects on the environment, but we are transparent and there are observers on board. We are not saying we are not causing damage, but we know the sustainability of our operations can be proven. Therefore, if it means we need to subject them [fishing companies] to get environmental clearance then so be it. If it is for the advantage of our environment, then we are ready to comply.
Namibia is world-renowned as a country with well-managed fishing resources – with those accolades on our shoulders – if it means bringing in more controls to better safeguard our environment then so be it.”