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Namibia Fed Up With ‘Sins’ Committed By Foreign Fishing Fleets Namibia, March 8, 13

Fishing companies, leaders and workers who ignore the laws of the country will be dealt with harshly, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhard Esau warned the industry on Friday in Walvis Bay.

He said no late payments of quota fees would be accepted and no exceptions would be made. Late payments would incur a 12% penalty fee, as set out in a circular sent out last year.

“Right holders who do not want to adhere to these provisions will leave the ministry with no alternative but to strictly enforce the law,” said Esau.

He said in the past the ministry did allow companies to pay their arrears in installments. “This has however not delivered the desired results.”

As for by-catch fees and fund levies, Esau said right holders owed the government a “substantial amount of money”, which resulted in less state revenue and negatively affected the functions of the ministry.

“Right holders cannot expect to benefit from natural resources and default on their commitment to pay statutory fees, and not face the consequences,” said Esau. “Continuing with this culture of non-payment leaves me with no choice but to enforce the punitive measures to stop this behavior.”

According to him, a revenue collection and debtors management system has been put in place. This system will become next month and will enable the ministry to bill right holders automatically.

Esau said his ministry had received complaints from within the fishing industry about some Namibian vessel owners who prefer to employ non-Namibian officers.

“Such conduct is unwelcome since it is done at the expense of qualified Namibian officers. I appeal to everyone in the industry to give preference to the available suitably qualified Namibian marine officers before attempting to draw on labor from outside of our shores,” Esau said.

Another concern is an increasingly negative attitude from some captains, mostly non-Namibian ones, towards fisheries observers. “They must stop this or run the risk of being asked to leave our country,” the minister said.

Also of concern are reports that fishing vessels increasingly target non-quota species – for example hake longline vessels catching kingklip, and large pelagic vessels targeting sharks instead of swordfish.

Esau said this trend had become unacceptable. Often the catches of non-quota species on board a vessel exceed the allowable species, he said.

With regard to Namibia’s obligation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a intergovernmental organization responsible for the management and conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas, the poor performance on the swordfish quota over the past five years may negatively affect Namibia when it comes to quota allocation, which will be reviewed at the next ICCAT meeting at the end of this year.

“My concern is that one or two individuals’ misjudgment can ruin the future for the entire nation,” Esau said.

It has also come to the ministry’s attention that more pilchards are being caught outside the pilchard season by vessels with quotas for horse mackerel. The minister called this an “inexcusable act” and warned the industry to stop the practice.

“If this is not adhered to, we will take stern measures against those who make themselves guilty of this unjustifiable action,” he warned.

There is apparently a tendency by some lobster vessel operators to catch lobsters in sanctuaries – mainly those vessels that are exempted from carrying observers on board, according to Esau.

“I warn those who engage in this unacceptable behavior, driven solely by greediness, to refrain from such practices because it is not in the best interest of the fishing sector,” said Esau.