WITH its fleet of patrol vessel and airplanes to patrol the coast, Namibia has succeeded in keeping illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishers from plundering its valuable marine resources.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, said there have been no incidents of IUU fishing since Namibia's independence - contrary to the pre-independence era when IUU fishing was rampant and a threat to stocks.
"If we did not have these patrol and management measures in place, it would not be long before the illegal fishers came here. The Benguela current is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, so it will be very profitable to those that want to steal," Esau told The Namibian after his opening address at the 10th meeting of the South East Fisheries Organisation (Seafo) Commission that started at Swakopmund on Monday.
Seafo was established as a regional fisheries management organisation within Namibia's fisheries ministry. The idea was shared with other fisheries states in the region, and eventually led to the signing of a convention in Windhoek in 2001 by Angola, EU, Iceland, Namibia, the Republic of Korea, SA, UK and the USA - and enforced in 2003.
The headquarters of the Seafo secretariat was moved to Swakopmund in 2012. IUU fishing is the greatest threat to sustainability of fisheries resources in high seas. It undermines the efforts of regional fisheries management organisations to monitor, asses and manage global fisheries resources.
"The main economic driver behind IUU fishing is quick profit by rich and organised crime syndicates. The demand for fish products is ever increasing and hence the price. In monetary terms it is estimated that IUU fishing plunders billions of dollars worth of fish per annum. This is a lot of money by any measure. The perpetrators are rarely brought to book, and when they are, fines are not deterrent enough," said Esau.
According to Esau IUU fishers operate from all over the world, changing their identities and often using weak governance in some countries to have access to the resources. He said the international community has realised that there is not a single entity that can win the fight against IUU fishing.
He added that regional fishing organisation such as Seafo can contribute by formulating strict measures to tighten possible entry gates to dissuade IUU fishers.
The final adoption of the Seafo System for Observation, Inspection and Compliance, is one of the key issues to be deliberated and agreed upon at the commission meeting in Swakopmund, and according to Esau, the adoption of this system will help combat IUU fishing in the region.
"IUU fishing is not prevalent in our region, but if we do not continue to adapt our strategies and monitor and control our grounds, it will become a very serious problem," he warned.