29 January 2013

Namibia: Level Playing Field in Fishing Industry

THE Marine Resources Act must be amended to make the allocation of fishing quotas more transparent.

This is one of the recommendations made by the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) after all stakeholders in the fishing industry were consulted towards the end of last year.

At the same time urgent attention should be given to designate fisheries inspectors as peace officers in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to enable them to legally execute their duties.

Over 13 000 jobs have been created in the Namibian fishing sector, of which 9 000 are accounted for by the hake industry.

The chairperson of the LRDC, Sacky Shanghala, said wide consultations were conducted with all stakeholders in the fishing industry to gain information on all aspects that need attention.

"After a request by the minister to take a serious look into the fishing industry we sent out questionnaires and some stakeholders sent in proposals on issues which they feel have a negative affect on the industry and how that should be solved. This is how the 'Urgent and Targeted Report on Fisheries' with recommendations to the ministry has seen the light."

He said for instance there is a strong perception that the quota allocation system is being exploited by people who apply for fishing rights as a 'paper right'.

"It is felt that these individuals are able to manipulate the market by creating derivative markets for the sale of their quotas to the 'highest bidder' and who do not contribute to the fisheries sector through investment in vessels or production facilities. There is no legal framework that can prevent this behaviour or force these new right holders to comply with the conditions," Shanghala said.

In general it was felt that the legal framework for the fishing industry is robust and internationally praised, but that the execution and implementation by the ministry may at times be discretional, unequal and erratic.

According to the report the Namibian model needs further elaboration to address the particularities of each sub-sector.

It is in this regard that Shanghala recommended that the quota allocation system needs to be clearly explained to the stakeholders and the public to ensure transparency. He said particularly the annual quota allocation should be a more comprehensive, reliable and fair process.

"The current system of quota allocation brings with it a certain level of insecurity as the companies in the industry do not know what their share of the total allowable catch (TAC) will be until they receive the notification letter from the ministry of their allotment for the coming season. In many instances notification is received by the industry a few days ahead of the start of the new season, which makes long term planning of operations very challenging."

Shanghala said the introduction of a more stable and transparent model of quota allocation, which will form part of the new regulations, would allow right holders to use their right as collateral with financial institutions.

The new regulations, if approved, would also include criteria for the allocation of quotas and require from right holders to submit any quota lease agreements within a given period to the authorities.

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