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What Will The Effect Of Phosphate Mining Be On Tuna Health? Namibia, June 3, 13

The Namibian fishing industry, especially the tuna and hake sector, is concerned about the impact of seismic surveys (for oil) and possible marine phosphate mining in Namibian waters.

Namibian Hake Association Chairman, Matti Amukwa, told Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein during a consultative meeting between the ministry and the fishing sector last Friday in Walvis Bay, that the tuna sector was facing “a challenging time” because of seismic testing.

“Seismic testing is quietly and very quickly killing this fishery, especially the pole and line, and surface long line, sectors. A solution should be found from relevant ministries and stakeholders to rescue this fishery otherwise it will be history,” he warned.

As for the effects of the proposed Sandpiper marine phosphate project off the coast near Walvis Bay, Amukwa said the tuna and hake industry remains concerned about the effects this project would have on the industry.

He maintained that “robust independent scientific research” is required on the implications of marine phosphate mining before any decision is taken on whether to go ahead with the project.

He said Namibian fish and tuna products need international certification or eco-labeling for sustainable fishing practices to be competitive in international markets. This certification could be jeopardized in the event where fears are realized that the phosphate sediment being mined would either drive away important fish resources, or even poison them.

“The livelihood of 9 000 workers in the wild seafood sector is at stake here,” Amukwa said.It was recently reported that Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP's), which is responsible for Sandpiper will soon launch a verification project worth N$14 million. This project will serve to verify findings of the environmental impact assessment of the marine component of Sandpiper.

Schlettwein disagreed with the fact that only one element, such a seismic surveys, was responsible for fish stocks moving away, saying a collection of factors including environmental elements will have such a large scale effect. He however agreed with Amukwa that more research was needed to ensure the safety of the phosphate mining on fisheries.

“Hopefully we'll find a middle way, but if not, we will have to consider the hard facts and make a decision from there,” he said.