Minister Esau confident there are pilchards

Even though the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, took a “calculated risk” when he granted a quota of 14 000 metric tons for sardines, he remains positive that there indeed exists significant numbers of sardines, which might just have migrated from its traditional fishing area.
Esau made these remarks yesterday after he held his annual ministerial address to his staff. It was due to the recent media reports, which allege that the pilchard bio-mass is depleted, that he also reprimanded his staff not to speak to the media.
“I am not buying into it that pilchards are being super-exploited,” he said. Recent media reports alleged that the stock is severely depleted, which is why the new TAC (Total Allowable Catch) set by Esau of 14 000 tons was questioned. “It was a misconception created by one individual,” Esau answered.
He explained that of the total determined TAC 10 000 tons are for commercial fishing operations, while the remaining 4 000 tons form part of the research quota. Even though the TAC for the previous year was set at the same amount, the total landings were only about 3 400 tons. “We are investigating the biomass, but there is evidence that pilchards have moved to deeper waters,” he said.
In recent years pilchards in Namibia were caught using purse seine nets, which are used to a distance of about 200 metres from the shoreline. “Maybe in future we have to do trawling if sardines have migrated to deeper waters,” he said.
The pilchard stock in Namibian waters was heavily over-fished before independence. Most notably around the 1970’s when yearly landings were in excess of one million tons. This was not sustainable, leading to the fish to collapse. Ever since the TAC has been continuously reduced. “The pilchard stock is a very precarious situation and we need to manage it in such a fashion that it can recover,” Esau said.

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