Eveline de Klerk Swakopmnd-The much-anticipated scramble for fishing rights is set to kick off later this year, with many local and foreign companies pushing to get their hands on this most coveted entitlement. A total of 75 fishing rights are set to expire by December 31, while 32 fishing rights already expired on December 31, 2017. These fishing rights are and have been, as per usual, valid for 20 years. “I will be inviting all interested Namibians, including those whose rights have terminated, to apply for new fishing rights during the course of this year,” said Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhardt Esau, on Friday during his annual address to the fishing industry. Trade union leaders have however advised the minister that workers in the fishing sector this time round be given fishing rights and quotas, along with their employers. “This will also allow for the equal distribution of wealth. We demand fair treatment of our members by some employers who mistreat them,” said Sakes Shikongo, a representative of the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union. “Employees sleep in tiny, overcrowded shacks without electricity and toilets. We need to address this situation as a matter of urgency,” remarked the president of the Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers’ Union, Paulus Hango, who doubles as the president of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia. He also suggested that workers receive quotas through a trust fund. Hango said the income from the quotas could then be channelled through benefits such as workers’ housing provision. Fishing is Namibia’s third largest economic sector, while Namibia is ranked among the top ten fishing countries in terms of the value of production. For 2015/16 Namibia generated N$10 billion in export revenues from fishing, up from N$7 billion the previous financial year. The fishing industry is however experiencing problems due to low quotas in the small pelagic sector, with over 3,000 people retrenched since last year. Hango suggested that a horse mackerel quota be allocated to companies that retrenched employees in an effort to save their jobs. The chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, said there should be no delays in quota allocation. Delays, he said, slow the work at factories and as such, slow down the economy. Amukwa said the lapse of 107 fishing rights between last year and this year created uncertainty because companies are not sure if fishing rights will be allocated to them again. “Now more than ever, the fishing industry needs confidence to proceed in the future. These concerns and many others clearly demonstrate we need confidence,” he said. Esau told the fishing industry that the fact that someone’s fishing right has expired does not imply that they cannot continue participating in the fishing industry, or that their investments in the sector are no longer required. “Many of the large investors in this sector are in fact operators, processors, suppliers and logistics companies who do not have fishing rights. We value these investors a lot, as they are important to the success of this sector, and the government will continue to promote their businesses.” He added that owners of expired, or expiring fishing rights are legally allowed to apply, alongside other Namibians, for new fishing rights once a public call is made. The evaluation of all applications will be based on provisions in the Marine Resources Act, 2000 and that expired, or expiring right holders, who have invested and complied with other conditions as required by law would be more competitive than those who didn’t. According to Esau, the expiration of fishing rights and the process that follows allow the government to affirm the fact that the fishing sector belongs to all Namibians, and demonstrate that there is a time when all Namibians can apply and compete fairly for a fishing right. “As has already been demonstrated in the case of rights that expired in 2017, my ministry is determined to manage this process in a way that protects Namibian jobs and investments in the fisheries sector, and for all rights that expire in 2018 and 2019,” he said. – Additional reporting by Nampa.
2018-02-19 08:59:51 7 months ago