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Report On Effects Of Oil Surveying On Tuna

The end of the month is expected to see the completion of a Namibian government commissioned report assessing the effect of oil exploring surveys on the tuna industry. The research is required to measure how far away from fishing grounds seismic exploration can take place without negatively impacting fish.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau confirmed the estimated finalization of the report by a task force of three ministers. It comes four months after Namibia reported that tests off the coast of southern Namibia by oil prospecting vessels could mean a collapse for the tuna industry.

One benefit the research hopes to achieve is a future with a more refined management plan that can be put in place to the advantage of both the fishing and oil exploration industries.

The study was initiated in a meeting involving Bernard Esau, Mines and Energy minister, Isak Katali and Works and Transport, Erikki Nghimtina, where it was agreed the seismic task force would be set up. The team also includes staff members from the Beneguela Current Commission and stakeholders from the tuna fishing and oil exploration sectors.

Seismic tests were undertaken by exploration vessels where they create sound waves underwater using a large ‘sledgehammer’. After the completion of the surveys, there are plans for four wells to be drilled over the next year at the coast of Namibia.

The intensity of the waves was recorded from the 2D and 3D surveys in the water sending out seismic pulses at around 230-250 decibels. As well as these waves being able to penetrate the sea bottom and assess potential oil resources, they were also found to drive fish away and are believed to be fatal to marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

Protests to the government about the negative impact these exploration vessels have on the tuna industry has taken place since last year from the Large Pelagic and Hake Longlining Association in Namibia.

Matthew Hambuda, Chairman of the Association said this effect can “blow the ears off fish causing deafness, and negatively impact fish schooling and migration, homing or orientation, avoidance of important habitat, stress, reproduction, food-finding and declines in fisheries catch rates, to name a few side effects.”

The large-pelagic industry employs about 800 Namibians and contributes to Namibia’s fishing export revenue. This is now all thought to be under threat.