The Namibian (Windhoek)

21 January 2013

Namibia: Lobster Catch Continues Despite Suspended Quota

THE Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources suspended the rock lobster quota of a unregistered rights holder last month.

Despite this, the company is continuing operations and has landed a lobster catch this month.

Ludzcom Fishing was granted a seven-year fishing concession by the ministry in December 2001 and was allowed to catch 15 tons per year despite it not being registered as a company in terms of the Companies Act.

The unregistered company had entered into a quota-lease agreement with African Marine Products Namibia (AMPN) to catch its quota.

To date AMPN has paid Ludzcom Fishing N$390 000, which had been shared among its shareholders, for exclusive rights to catch the lobster quota.

Fisheries Minister Bernard Esau said Ludzdom risked having its fishing concession revoked if it continues catching its quota without registering the company.

"Since they [Ludzcom Fishing] are formerly disadvantaged people who never had fishing rights, we decided to only suspend their total allowable catch (TAC) quota until they get their house in order [to register the company], instead of revoking their fishing concession," said Esau.

A rock lobster landing report of Ludzcom, of which The Namibian has seen a copy, reveals that it had caught 2,4 tons of lobster up to January 16.

When this was revealed to Esau, he said: "Maybe the officials of the ministry have not yet issued a letter to them [Ludzcom company shareholders] informing them that their quota had been suspended."

Esau added that he would first have to check whether the group had been issued with a quota suspension order when he returns to work in the first week of February.

"Only then would I be in a position to decide on any punitive measures against the group," Esau said.

Asked whether the ministry was contravening the Companies Act by granting fishing concessions to unregistered companies, Esau replied: "We use our discretionary powers in terms of the law to grant right holders fishing concessions on condition that they reserve a business name and register it."

Meanwhile, a Lüderitz businessman who is in the rock lobster industry has claimed that the ministry is acting in a "questionable manner" towards Ludzcom Fishing because of it business ties with AMPN.

"The ministry has recommended new fishing concession rights holders to enter into business deals with AMPN, therefore it is reluctant to act against those [fishing right holders] involved in business deals with AMPN," said the businessman, who wanted to stay anonymous for fear of retribution.

luqman@namibian.com.na

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