Fishing industry condemns alleged trafficking

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Fishing industry condemns alleged trafficking

WALVIS BAY – Fishing industry players and stakeholders have condemned the alleged human trafficking of the 60 fishers that were rescued last week Monday.

The players are now appealing to the authorities to address the issue urgently as it paints Namibia in a negative light, seeing that the right holders, Nata Fishing Enterprise are from Namibia. 

They also want the right holders to be publicly known and stripped of their rights.

The Namibian Police after a sting operation with the Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) rescued the 60 fishers from the long-line vessels MV Shang Fu and Nata 2 that are allegedly operating for Nata Fishing Enterprise.

The 60-member crew, according to police investigations, has been on the two vessels since 2018 and was subjected to harsh working conditions without legal documents or proper medical care. 

National police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi on Friday said there were 35 Philippines, two Taiwanese nationals, Chinese (two), Indonesians (three), Vietnamese (two), Mozambicans (four), four Angolans and eight Namibians aboard the two vessels. 

The vessels were initially detected on 22 June, by the police and FOA while patrolling in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) Namibian seawater. 

“They came across the vessel and upon boarding, they detected that the vessel was in violation of the Namibian fisheries and marine resources laws,” said Shikwambi. 

Shocked chairperson of Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA), Matti Amukwa yesterday told New Era Nata Fishing Enterprise is not a member of the confederation but should be held accountable as their action affects the whole industry.

“We don’t even know them and they have given the fishing industry a bad image. 

We do not condone their actions and they should face the consequences,” Amukwa said.

According to Amukwa, the fishing industry players and unions have signed a memorandum of understanding that specifically addresses the working conditions of sea-going personnel.

“Hence, we are deeply disturbed that there are still some players that do not adhere to the Labour Act and abuse employees. It is really sad to know that these workers have been on the vessels since 2018. It is inhumane and should be addressed with immediate effect,” Amukwa said.

Meanwhile, CEO of the FOA Stanley Ndara on Friday said that they were never informed about the vessels at sea, hence there was no observer on board. “Similarly no authorisation was granted to them to sail without an observer. November 2020 was the last time they were authorised,” Ndara said. 

Fisheries minister, Derek Klazen yesterday also told New Era that they are disturbed by shocking revelations of suspected human trafficking, violations of the Marine Resources, Labour, Immigrations Control and Combating of Trafficking in Persons and other Acts linked to Nata Fishing Pty Limited, a right holder. 

“We pledge to fully cooperate with the relevant authorities while we consider appropriate punitive measures within the Marine Resources Act as soon as this investigation is fully completed. We applaud the FOA and the police who rescued the crew,” Klazen said.

Affirmative Repositioning activist, Knowledge Ipinge also said that it is deeply disturbing that the exploitation of seamen continues.

“I blame some selfish and greedy ministers and government officials for trading the lives of fellow Namibians at the expense of the profits they benefit from the industry,” a furious Ipinge said.

He added that forced labour and human trafficking in the fisheries sector is a severe problem that the Revolutionary Union (RU) is prioritising through promoting sustainable solutions and advocacy aimed at protecting fishermen’s human and labour

According to him, the Namibian working class is vulnerable to being deceived and coerced due to the weak implementation of the laws and reluctance by the labour ministry to amend the Labour Act in line with the Work in Fishing Convention, which was adopted by parliament years back.