“Fisheries strong and vibrant”

Most of Namibia’s important fish stocks are showing signs of recovery. There are, however, some stocks which appear to be in a very precarious situation and for which urgent management interventions are needed to prevent them from total collapse.

This was the keynote of the speech of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, when he presented his annual ministerial address to the fish industry on Friday in Walvis Bay. As usual the town hall at the Civic Centre was filled to the brim, when Esau presented his 29 page-long review and outlook regarding his department.
Fisheries still is the second biggest contributor to Namibia’s GDP, having provided about N$10 billion in FOREX earnings in 2016. “This significant revenue may be attributed to improved catches with regard to sizes, favourable exchange rates, increased value addition, and better prices in some markets,” Esau said. Although the decrease in exchange rates against the local currency meant that the industry did earn less N$ in 2016 as compared to 2015.
According to Esau the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for all fisheries in 2016/17 was 521 714 tonnes, compared to 528 696 tonnes in the year before. This represents a marginal decrease of about 1%. “The total landings for 2015/16 were 514 297 tonnes, while preliminary landings for 2016/17 as at December 2016 stand at 458 000 tonnes,” he said.
While addressing the state of Namibia’s fish stocks, Esau mentioned the five most important commercial stocks, which have recovered – some significantly. According to research conducted in September 2016 the total biomass of hake has increased by a staggering 21.5% compared to the year before and is now estimated at 1 740 260 tonnes. “But the spawning biomass is still below a biomass that can produce a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY),” he said.
Another important commercial species, Horse Mackerel, is doing very well. According to Esau the stock is above the MSY level of 312 000 tons. During the last survey conducted in September 2016 it was established that the biomass of this species has also increased (4.6%). The biomass was estimated at 1 449 930 tons, compared to 1 386 410 in 2015. “However, the stock catches for the 2015 fishing season of around 316 000 tons are above the MSY and thus there is a need to bring them to a level where this stock shall continue to be exploited at a sustainable level,” he said.
Another increase in the biomass was established when the monk fish was assessed in March 2016. The biomass for this species increased by 3.4% and is estimated at 64 000 tonnes. Esau did mention yet again that more research is required regarding monk as “very little is known on where monk spawns, as well as on its feedings pattern.”
Furthermore the assessment conducted in September 2016 also established that the biomass of both the deep sea red crab grew by 10.6% as well as the fishable rock lobster biomass, which increased by a staggering 20.8%. Regarding the rock lobster fisheries Esau called on the fishing industry to put more effort in catching the quotas allocated to them and “avoid the underperformances which were observed over the past years.”
While Esau spread the positive news on the above-mentioned commercial fish species, he yet again reiterated certain underperforming fisheries sectors, some due to the species being over-exploited. In this regard he underlined the pilchard industry as well as tuna and tuna like species. In the meantime the Ministry is also conducting research to determine the current biomass of the orange roughy. “This is the first survey since the moratorium was introduced on this fishery in 2008,” he said. Once the results are released the Ministry might consider revoking the moratorium.

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