Fishing rights criteria to be reviewed

Derek Klazen

Fisheries and marine resources minister Derek Klazen told industry stakeholders at Walvis Bay a study will be conducted to review fishing rights criteria during the 2024/2025 financial year.

“This exercise will ensure compliance, fairness and equity among right holders [regarding] the duration of their fishing rights,” he said last week.

The review will allow the ministry to assess if right holders adhere to the set variation criteria and implement applicable measures, which will inform the continuation or termination of such fishing rights, he said.

Namibian Confederation of Fishing Associations chairperson Matti Amukwa said the industry needs a predictable quota allocation system for all holders based on their performance in the past fishing season.

The criteria for such transparent allocation is provided for in the act and have been worked into a scorecard, approved by the Cabinet, but awaiting operationalisation since 2015.

“The industry needs to know how much quota they can expect every season in order to plan their investments and mobilise operations. It is very difficult to always start mobilising immediately a quota is issued, often in fragments, something that contributes to underperformance by right holders,” he said.

He noted that the industry has concerns about the principle of rights-based fisheries management, pointing out that the Marine Act states that fishing quotas can only be allocated to a fishing right holder.

He said whether a commercial quota, governmental objective quota or otherwise, it stipulates that the fish should be caught and accounted for to the government by a right holder.

“The act is also very clear on how every Namibian can apply for a fishing right and is entitled to fair consideration in the process of allocating fishing rights.”

Amukwa expressed concern when learning that entities not holding rights were allocated fishing quotas under the guise of governmental objectives.

“I wish to clarify that Namibian fish belongs to all Namibians, and not just to right holders. Right holders are not entitled to Namibian fish to the exclusion of other Namibians. What we are saying is that the law provides mechanisms on how all, not a few, Namibians can benefit from Namibian fish, whether or not they are actively fishing. This mechanism includes the distribution of taxes and levies paid by the fishing rights holders to all Namibians through the national budgeting process,” he said.

The federation agrees with governmental objectives to stabilise support for governmental objectives from the fishing industry through existing right holders, as provided in the law.

“There is no need to create other quota holders for governmental objectives contrary to the law, when this objective can be realised through existing right holders. If indeed the government wants to create new right and quota holders outside of the act, let this be done through a revision of the act, through parliament, and with full stakeholders’ positive participation,” he said.

He noted that it is not realistic to expect that allocation of governmental objective fishing quotas will solve all development issues in Namibia, such as building schools, hospitals and also addressing national emergencies.

“Governmental objectives requiring allocation of fishery resources, such as droughts or floods, occur sporadically and should be addressed as ad hoc emergencies, not through routine annual quota allocation. The government should allow existing national budgeting mechanisms to distribute revenue from fisheries levies, fees and taxes to cater for the needs of schools, hospitals and communities,” Amukwa said.

“This is an acceptable and fair way of benefiting all Namibians, rather than allocation of quotas to a few such facilities and groupings.”
Klazen said the ministry has prioritised the completion of the scorecard in the current financial year.

He admitted that the process of implementing the scorecard has taken “too long” (since 2015) to be finalised – “due to its complexities”.

The quota scorecard is a system that will be used to determine who receives fishing quotas.

“Its objective is to ensure that marine wealth is distributed equitably. It also aims to improve Namibian participation in the fishing sector and align activities with the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” said Klazen.

He said the ministry continues to promote optimal distribution of fishing quotas, and the pro-rata quota allocation mechanism seeks to provide efficient and equitable quota allocation for the development of the fishing sector.

“I want to highlight that the accessibility to fish quotas creates economic means to draw socio-economic gains, therefore, it is crucial that the process for the allocation of fishing quotas is transparent, equitable and sustainable. To ensure this, the ministry commends the process for a comprehensive quota allocation mechanism, the scorecard,” he said.

The ministry is also in the process of reviewing landed values for all commercial species harvested in Namibia. The landed values have not been reviewed since they were implemented in 2017. The market conditions have evolved over the past six years, necessitating a review of the landed values.

A comprehensive consultation per fishing association will be carried out in February 2024. It is anticipated that the process will be finalised by 31 March 2024.

Klazen further pointed out several “worrisome trends” within the industry and warned of serious consequences.

“This trend of high bycatch suggests that these landings appear to be deliberate and can be avoided. It is landed intentionally for the economic value, something we observe in our records,” he said.

“Right holders are reminded that high bycatches are an indication of unsustainable management of the resource and may have a negative impact on our management system.”

He noted that specific right holders are continuously catching beyond their allocated quotas and cautioned them that this will have a negative impact on future allocations.

He warned right holders that their allocation will be reduced by a percentage equivalent to their overharvest of the previous fishing season.
“Don’t come and cry. You got what you got. And for the next year, you also overharvested. So in the next year, you’re going to get less. What is fair is fair.”

Walvis Bay Business Chamber chairperson Johnny Doëseb said there are 455 “privileged” right holders in Namibia, with a population of 2,6 million.

“When you are allocating these rights to these 455 Namibian companies and Namibians, there’s an expectation that these 455 companies deliver on resource harvesting, manage the resource and socially impact the lives of all the Namibians that are not right holders, and that’s the responsibility of the right holders that are sitting here,” he noted.

“If they don’t play their part, no matter what innovative approaches the ministry is bringing to the table will be in vain.”

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