23 January 2019

Namibia: Esau Hopeful Pilchards Will Recover

Walvis Bay — The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau says he remains hopeful the pilchard's fishery will recover once the moratorium is over, possibly by next year.

In 2017, Cabinet imposed a moratorium on pilchards on the basis they were almost extinct due to overfishing and other factors.

Esau gave an update with regard to pilchards after the minister imposed a three moratorium on the fishery in December 2017.

The moratorium will stay in place until 2020.

Esau on Monday told New Era he is currently waiting for the latest feedback from scientists to see if the moratorium had the desired effects of the ministry.

Pilchards had suffered unsustainable harvesting in the past, especially before independence, which resulted in a drop in catches from over one million metric tonnes in 1968 to less than 50,000 metric tonnes in 1990.

At the same time, the ministry observed the natural mortality of pilchards was quite high and that such volumes of fish will be removed by natural mortality, even if it is not allocated via the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) process

Hence the ministry in an attempt to help save the pilchards and avoid its extinction in Namibian waters, set the TAC for the species at zero metric tonnes for the 2018-2020 fishing season.

"Only feedback to establish the biomass of the pilchards will tell us whether our initiative is yielding success," Esau told New Era.

He added the assessment is done during the breeding cycle, which is between December and January, adding that climate change and other factors also play a role in the recovery of the fishery.

"However, we hope for the best as we have put our best measures in place, while as the moratorium remains in place," Esau stated.

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