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MINISTER of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana (Photo: The Namibian)

The pilchard sardine crisis continues to affect government decisions

Click on the flag for more information about Namibia NAMIBIA
Tuesday, June 30, 2020, 07:40 (GMT + 9)

MINISTER of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana instructed scientists to assess the country's pilchard stock to determine whether the species, which is close to extinction, can be harvested.

The government banned pilchard fishing in 2017 for three years to aid its recovery.

This came came after former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau reportedly downplayed scientific research showing that pilchard reserves had been overfished for several years, and that it may not recover again – even if a five-year ban was to be implemented.

The pilchard ban expires at the end of this year. 

Kawana yesterday said the directive to conduct the assessment is to ensure pilchard and sardine stocks have recovered sufficiently before the ban is lifted.

“The state is obliged to sustainably utilise the resources. So, if the scientists say the stock is still critically low, then we will not issue any quotas or rights. But if they say there is improvement and that the resources are commercially exploitable, we will start issuing quotas,” he said.

Kawana said he expects to get a report on the assessment early next year.

Pilchards are one of the most lucratively fished species in the industry, generating big profits for those Esau and other former fisheries ministers allocated quotas to. 

The Namibian reported in 2017 that Esau went for broke that year to issue pilchard harvesting licences despite warnings from scientists. 

Esau claimed at the time The Namibian had an agenda against him and that he was trying to save jobs.

“That article was subjective. You editorialised the story. It was a sensational story,” Esau said.

Cabinet announced the ban on pilchard fishing 10 months later.

“They recommended that for the next three years, there would be no harvesting of this particular species, to ensure that we manage our resources based on scientific evidence to allow the fish to recover,” former information minister Tjekero Tweya said.

The pilchard industry has for years lobbied for more quotas – despite the species being endangered. 

Popular Democratic Movement president McHenry Venaani yesterday said Namibia should seek advice from marine scientists regarding the sustainability of the species.

“We cannot short-change future generations by depleting pilchards, and try to cover up their [leaders'] greed by hiding behind their three-year recoverability of pilchards,” he said.

Landless People's Movement parliamentarian Henny Seibeb told The Namibian yesterday conservation should triumph over short gains.

“In the context of preservation and conservation, the principle must hold that we allow this particular fish stock to grow in a sustainable way. I think a five- to ten-year moratorium could be allowed for sustainable development,” he said.

“We shouldn't finish all our resources at once to satisfy the appetite of greedy rent-seeking politicians,” Seibeb said.

Fisheries experts three years ago said the sardine stock size was estimated at virtually zero level, and the natural mortality was considered to be very high. 

Authors: Sakeus IIKela and Shinovene Immanuel / The Namibian | Read full story here

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