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Namibian Tuna Catch Plunges On Oil Exploration

Namibia’s tuna catch has been slashed after oil and gas exploration took place in the nation’s southern waters. According to a study commissioned by the government, Namibia’s tuna harvest dropped to just 650 metric tons so far this year, from 1,800 tons in 2012 and 4,046 tons in 2011.

Anna Erastus, Policy Planning Director at the Fisheries and Marine Resources Ministry said: “With increasing amounts of seismic exploration in Namibian waters recently, tuna catches have dropped.” Around 90 percent of the country’s catch is albacore tuna, with the rest made up from bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack.

The fishing industry is one of Namibia’s biggest sources of foreign exchange for the country’s economy. Namibia earned USD 400 million from fish exports in 2012, according to Paarl, South Africa-based NKC Research.

A group that has been put together to investigate ecological effects of seismic exploration is recommending that the government should delay a proposed seismic survey for oil and gas in Tripp Seamount, a main tuna fishing ground. Erastus said that fishing should be put back until after March 2014 to avoid a time where as much as 70 percent of Namibia’s tuna catch is taken.

She added that another oil and gas company is intending to conduct a seismic survey just across the border in South African waters in February. “This is in direct path of tuna migrating from South Africa to Namibian waters,” she said. Erastus explained that sound blasts during seismic surveys “could send the tuna into avoidance mode, so that they are not able to be caught by fishing vessels during what would normally be the height of the pole and line tuna season.”

The Australian tuna industry has also announced that a seismic survey undertaken in 2011/12 in the Australian Bight returned the worst ever result for the nation’s bluefin tuna fishery. A further study proposed for October 2014 to June 2015 would be directly in the Southern bluefin migration path.

Erastus continued by saying that Namibia has “alerted South Africa to the seriousness of the issue” and has requested the neighboring country to consider the same approach. “Tuna migrates up through South African waters to Namibia, and the South African industry is similarly affected”, she said.