WINDHOEK – Namibia must take value addition within the fishing sector, which remains one of the country’s key economic sectors, to new heights in 2019. This is according to Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Bernhardt Esau, who yesterday cautioned that the exportation of unprocessed fish and marine resources means Namibia loses out on possible additional revenue as well as valuable employment opportunities.
“We are exporting jobs and we cannot allow this to continue. We are also exporting potential income from taxes that could be derived from value addition activities,” said Esau during his annual staff address. Noting that his ministry aims to unlock the full potential for the local fisheries sector, Esau used an example of the horse mackarel species, to which he said value can be added, either by canning, filleting or even drying. Through activities such as these, he said, many jobs could be created.
In the same vein, Esau continued that the sector could generate substantially more foreign exchange by exporting finished products which are more valuable. “We want to tap this sector to secure a higher return from fishing activities,” Esau stated.
He further proclaimed the state of the country’s fishing stocks as healthy and stable and noted that data on foreign exchange earnings from fisheries trade and employment figures shows that the sector continues to be a strong economic mainstay of the country.
Meanwhile, Esau reminded his staff that as a ministry they have a tall order of important business, which must be done for the socio-economic benefit for all people in the country.
In addition, he highlighted some of the activities for his ministry in 2019, which include finalising the issuance of new fishing rights and renewals of existing rights, which began in late 2018; fully implementing the fisheries scorecard for quota allocations, eradicating some Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities reported on the country’s northern maritime border; and finalising ecolabelling of hake fisheries. Other activities comprise concluding in-depth studies on the pilchard fishery, including a study on seals and their effect; re-engineering the inland aquaculture model, and strengthening protection of inland fisheries to facilitate continued contribution of the sector to food security in rural areas; as well as continuing international collaboration and leadership on the blue economy, oceans health; and implementation of MoUs with fisheries partner states.
Esau added that because 2018 was a tough year due to budget cuts, several activities in his ministry were not implemented fully, as was the case in other ministries.
However, the minister stated that resources were mobilised from the Marine Resources Fund (MRF) to supplement the main budget from Treasury, especially targeting essential services of the ministry.
“I am happy to note that in September 2018, 30 percent of the N$121 586 603 MRF budget (which is about N$36.4 million) was approved for expenditure, in line with government budget procedures, and by 15 November 2018, I had approved the entire MRF budget for expenditure, in line with Marine Resources Act, 2000. There is therefore no excuse for the directorates, through the executive director, for not initiating implementation of the essential programs in the ministry that have been pending. The austerity measures by the government as communicated by the Office of the Prime Minister are still in force, and we must implement them fully,” said Esau.
Also addressing the staff, the fisheries ministry’s executive director, Dr Moses Maurihungirire, said more has to be done within the ministry with the meagre resources currently available.