The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA) says Namibia loses over N$1,5 billion due to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities per year.
According to the confederation, over 100 000 tonnes of fish are harvested by six or seven foreign trawlers that are allegedly working under licence in Angolan waters in the northern part of the country annually.
In a letter to the minister of fisheries and marine resources dated 15 August, which The Namibian has seen, CNFA chairperson Matti Amukwa called for urgent intervention to stop illegal fishing in Namibian waters.
“For too long have we allowed outsiders to rape our Namibian fish stocks. We need to take action now and stop the damage being done by well-known IUU vessels … We cannot rely on other countries’ governments to stop the pilferage of our resources,” he said.
Illegal fishing has been ongoing in Namibia’s northern waters since 2015.
A 2017 report on IUU by the ministry, which was fully supported by industry concluded that to fight IUU, the deployment of monitoring, control, and surveillance platforms at and around the northern maritime border is required.
The CNFA suspects that these recommendations were not followed due to budgetary restraints, which limited the action radius of Namibian patrol vessels.
Amukwa said foreign vessels predominantly harvest horse mackerel, but with the vessels ignoring the 200m isobath line, all other species, such as hake, kingklip, and dentex also land in the holds of these vessels.
He said the illegally caught fish is not taken into account when determining the total allowable catch (TAC) for quota species.
“As a result, the TAC given to the industry may be too high, and, when combined with illegally caught fish, result in overfishing and eventually the collapse of the fishery.
“On the other hand, if the illegally caught fish is brought into the TAC calculations, then legitimate fishers would need to reduce their catches.”
The confederation listed the Sei Whale, Grey Whale, Olutorsky, and Trondheim vessels, which are suspected of engaging in IUU in the European Union, as also being among those engaging in illegal activities in Namibian waters.
The Sei Whale is currently docked at the harbour at Walvis Bay awaiting a green light from the ministry to harvest 8 000 tonnes of horse mackerel for Fishcor.
Fishcor applied for the licensing of the vessel to be effective from 6 September the same day the application was made.
According to Amukwa, illegal fishing is causing the Namibian fishing industry significant damage, putting it at risk of collapsing.
“The loss to the Namibian economy due to lower prices is estimated at around N$600 million per annum,” he said.
The CNFA called on the government to take immediate action to stop illegal fishing by deploying more patrol vessels to the northern border with Angola, and to work with the Angolan government to crack down on illegal fishing in Angolan waters.
The CNFA also said the government should investigate the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the owners and operators of illegal fishing vessels.
The executive director of fisheries and marine resources, Annely Haiphene, has confirmed that IUU is being detected at the northern maritime border.
She says the ministry is currently engaging their Angolan counterparts on a bilateral level to see if the two countries can do joint patrols.
“It’s still a matter of discussion . . . The unfortunate situation is, it seems illegal fishers monitor our movements, because when we are about to reach them, they are out,” she says.
The ministry is proposing to blacklist the implement port state measure to apprehend the suspected vessels and distribute the names to the southern African regional fisheries manangent organisation.