The National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) does not have the money and expertise to catch the horse mackerel quota it has been awarded by the government.
This is despite the company having been part of the industry since 1991.
Fishcor chief executive Clive Gawanab says the parastatal has until 31 December to land the 8 000 tonnes of fish before the end of the fishing season. The quota cannot be carried over to the next season.
With no money and a looming deadline, Gawanab says the parastatal has considered a private fishing operator as a solution.
The company has roped in Mabasen Atlantic Fishing to catch the fish on Fishcor’s behalf.
This move has brought Gawanab under scrutiny, with the process of appointing Mabasen Atlantic being questioned.
Mabasen Atlantic markets itself as a company that mobilises resources and provides services for quota holders.
It will now be responsible for catching, landing and marketing the horse mackerel quota on behalf of Fishcor.
“Mabasen has undertaken to provide risk capital upfront to fund the mobilisation of the vessel(s) and to facilitate the catching of the fish.
“To this effect Fishcor would pay Mabasen a market-related landing fee as enshrined in the agreement,” Gawanab says.
Mabasen is owned by Windhoek businessman Charles Naruseb and his partner, Charlton Useb.
Discussions between Mabasen and Fishcor have been ongoing since last year when the company allegedly promised 78 former Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) employees jobs.
This has not happened.
Discussions continued in January this year when Fishcor approached Mabasen to engage in a joint vessel charter agreement and the marketing of 17 600 tonnes of fish.
This was weeks before Fishcor approached the Horse Mackerel Association with an expression of interest to buy 3 000 tonnes.
Gawanab says Fishcor received an offer from Venmar Fishing for the entire 3 000 tonnes in February.
The money was allegedly used to pay SeaFlower White Fish salaries at Lüderitz.
The 8 395 tonnes remained on Fishcor’s books.
The Namibian understands the reminder was a promise to Venmar on the employment redressing programme to sustain the former SPP workers.
“Fishcor management then took a decision to deviate from the norm of simply selling the remainder of the quota, and to instead focus on participating in the full value chain of the horse mackerel pipeline,” Gawanab says.
This shift in strategy required additional funding and expertise, which Gawanab says Fishcor has been working on acquiring.
He says during 2022 and 2023 the company received numerous proposals for joint ventures, joint operations, or quota purchases from various companies and individuals, including foreign-based entities.
Gawanab says out of the proposals received, the company chose one which best met its business requirements and revenue-maximising goals.
“AIl the proposals were presented to the board of directors during a meeting held on 17 May, and management was given the go-ahead to engage Mabasen Fishing,” he says.
The two entities signed the agreement on 21 June.
Mabasen has since charted two factory vessels (the ‘Grey Whale’ and the ‘Sei Whale’) which have allegedly been flagged for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Cameronian waters in 2021.
The Grey Whale was allegedly penalised in Angola for illegal fishing.
Gawanab has dismissed these allegations, saying the vessels have been cleared and issued with an advance clearance certificate by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
He says allegations are being made by those who want to delay the issuance of a fishing licence.
“Fishcor views these attempts as a clear violation and sabotage of its right to conduct its fishing business and participation in the vertical value chain.
“It is rather unfortunate that such false claims by the ‘concerned group’ resulted in a significant delay in the process at the time of issuance of this statement,” he says.
However, the two vessels appeared on a European Commission Council report of 2021 on IUU in Cameroon.
The commission concluded that Cameroon failed to uphold its responsibilities as a flag state to exercise control over its fleet.
Mabasen owner, Naruseb clarifies that participation in the fishing industry doesn’t necessarily require fishing rights, although it needs to be allocated a fishing quota by the fishing ministry.
The company was established in 2018, he says, and has been involved in fish trading within the Southern African Development Community region.
Naruseb says their role in the industry is to provide services to quota holders, such as chartering vessels, supplying fishing gear, and fish trading.
“The horse mackerel industry is divided into two operational segments, land-based and sea-based. We are involved in the sea-based operation. The vessels we have secured are factory freezer vessels and will be operating on sea,” he says.
He says through the agreement, the company will employ 34 former SPP employees during the contract period.
Naruseb expresses concern over efforts to protect the interests of foreigners in the fishing industry, arguing that Namibians should not be bullied into participating in any sector dominated by foreign control.
“The resources of this country belong to all of us. All Namibians have a right to come up with innovative ways to participate in any sector.
“It’s very sad to see that our own Namibian brothers who have been in the industry for over 30 years have nothing to show as industry pioneers, but fight the noble efforts of other Namibians to protect the interest of those foreigners who claim to control our fishing industry,” he says.