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Editorial - Drain the fisheries swamp

2021-09-24  Staff Reporter

Editorial - Drain the fisheries swamp
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Exploitation of new right holders within the fishing industry has been a bone of contention for some time. 

A considerable number of disputes have landed in court over the years, with fingers mainly pointed at the big fish or some established industry players who are accused of taking new entrants for a ride. 

The nature of some joint ventures and catching agreements leave a lot to be desired. 

In 2018, the media exposed a fishy deal that involved a group of 111 fishermen widows, who on paper held a 40% shareholding in a local fishing company. 

Despite being the majority shareholders of the firm, these hapless women were initially paid a monthly stipend of N$1 400 each and then later reduced to N$700 in 2016 before it completely stopped. 

Namibian Sun at the time reported the widows also had no idea the company had secured a N$17 million loan from a local bank to finance the construction of a cold storage facility. 

This too was never discussed with the widows, while a company representative claimed payments meant for the “majority shareholders” were redirected to raise an additional N$22 million for infrastructure construction. 

The issue was later addressed after former minister Bernhard Esau intervened. 

The man now tasked to reform the industry and restore some lost hope has also joined the fray by imploring new fishing right holders to familiarise themselves with the operations of the industry before committing and tying themselves to agreements that could prove to be troublesome in the end. 

While addressing new right holders at Walvis Bay this week, Derek Klazen did not mince his words. 

“I am sure some of you have a rude awakening and realised that the fishing industry is all about making money but also how you can diversify, which necessarily does not mean buying vessels. You can invest your money elsewhere as well, not necessarily a vessel that takes away most of your dividends,” Klazen said. 

As the political head of the fisheries ministry, Klazen has a role to ensure economic empowerment is broad-based, fair and benefits women, the disabled and other marginalised groups – and it should not only be for the elite through whose hands the country’s wealth keeps being recycled without filtering to those who are in need.  

The sentiment among the general population is that injustice prevails in the allocation of natural resources, specifically marine resources. 

The public feels benefitting from the marine resources is the preserve of the elite and the politically connected, whose greed birthed Fishrot. 

Hence, new entrants need the necessary guidance when it comes to entering into partnerships with established players. 

In addition to protecting the interests of new entrants, more transparency and proper planning when allocating and auctioning quotas will have to be seriously enforced. 

Stakeholders within the industry have complained of various challenges, including the plight of workers, which is seemingly overlooked by some fishing companies. 

Housing should be made mandatory for all fishing companies and a minimum wage should be set. 

Government should also be more open with the governmental objective quota and be transparent in who receives quotas. 

The public ought to know exactly how much is paid out to those benefiting under the governmental objective quota. 

Every fishing company or those whose quota they catch should have a workers’ trust as part of shared benefits. 

2021-09-24  Staff Reporter

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