Horse mackerel fishery in stormy waters

“We had an honest expectation the Minister would reverse the drastically increased quota levies, in the same manner he reversed the decision of the N$1500 per month angling permit”.
Stakeholders in the midwater trawl fishing sector admitted this week they were left bitterly disappointed when Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau did not make any announcement on Friday to reverse his decision on drastic quota levy increases slammed on the sector some weeks ago. Quota levies sky-rocketed between 391 % and 850 %
The midwater trawl sector has been entering troubled financial waters in recent years, after the two biggest operators’ share of the annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was decreased with more than half to allow newcomer right holders to enter the market.
With the market now shared with more right holders, more negative impacts followed. These include pressure on Namibia’s traditional markets in West Africa when Nigeria banned the import of all fish on account it has adequate fish resources to supply its domestic demand.
When the average fish size of Namibian horse mackerel started to decrease and economic decline took effect in West Africa, competitors like Morocco seized the moment. With Namibia’s competitive edge gone due to smaller fish sizes, oversupply of horse mackerel in the remainder of the West African market and dwindling spending by West Africans, the markets started to talk price only.
Just as Namibian horse mackerel exporters thought things cannot get worse, new threats started to emerge. However, from a source very close to home: fisheries observer levies were increased (during 2015) from N$800 000 annually per vessel to N$3 million annually per vessel. At the same time taxes on foreign crews increased to as many as N$7 million per year, increasing pressure on production cost, cash flow and profitability.
When Minister Esau announced recently the increase in levies per ton and levies per quota for horse mackerel ranging from 391 % to 850 % depending whether the vessel is Namibian flag, Namibian-based or foreign flagged, the industry started a pattern of downturn which was described yesterday by key stakeholders as a situation they cannot anticipate to end good.
“We were hopeful on Friday during the launch of the 2017 Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust Day the Minister would announce a reversal of this decision. Even if it was temporarily only to allow for proper consultations, we would have rejoiced”, explained a source close to one of the bigger operators.
“When the Minister announced the reversal of the N$1500 per month angling permit to the normal N$14 per month and N$168 per annum in lieu of further consultation with the public and other affected parties there were high hopes from my side. I must admit I thought its coming”, explained another.
The announcement never came. “We are already subsidising our market price in that production costs exceed our selling price”. The current price of horse mackerel is well below the N$10 mark. I don’t want to divulge this market price we currently receive, but I can say to you it is below the N$10 per kilo benchmark, but just the recent levy announcement increased production cost by at least 50 cents per kilo”, said another stakeholder.
Earlier namib times were informed by another operator he foresees dire consequences for newcomer operators who don’t have the cash reserves to overcome the difficult times

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