The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau said that the ministry will no longer tolerate the selling of fishing rights, especially to foreign owned companies.
Esau who was speaking in parliament last week said that in his capacity as fisheries minister, he will not allow for Namibians who were awarded fishing rights to sell them to foreign companies as a get rich fast scheme.
“All current fishing right holders need to get ministerial approval in order to be able to sell their rights and as along as I am minister no approvals of such a nature will be granted. We are currently doing an evaluation in current right holders to determine if they reinvested into the country, if not, their rights will not be renewed” he said.
He also said that the ministry looses billions and the opportunities to create job opportunities to foreign right holders who exploit the countries natural resources.
Esau further said that the ministry is reviewing policies which will make sure that all right holders reinvest into the country by value addition initiatives or face loosing their rights adding that some fishing right holders feel entitled to them.
“No one is entitled to fishing rights, quotas are not allocated based asset based but on reinvestments into the country,”
Esau also said that the ministry has been advocating for value addition to all products in the fishing sector adding that all fishing products should be processed in the country to alleviate poverty by means of job creation.
While debating amendments to the Marine Resources Act of 2000 which will allow Government to take over a bigger role in the exploitation of marine resources unlike in the past when private companies were at the forefront.
According to the amendments which are currently before parliament for approval, the changes aim to “provide sovereign rights of the state and further control of marine resources and for the matters incidental thereto”.
However, the same clause will be inserted into the National Fishing Corporation Act of 1991 to give the parastatal more powers.
Attorney General Sacky Shanghala who shared Esau’s sentiments reiterated that the government’s involvement in the industry through the fisheries ministry and state-owned company was minimal adding that as part of the reforms, the government will also get its share of fishing quotas as well as being a rightsholder.
“The amendment bill tends to change the county’s destiny by placing the resources in the hands of the state. We are affirming the governments relationship with is resources” he said.
Shanghala also said that the fishing sector is currently faced with issues of rife elite cronyism, non-transparency in the issuing of fishing quotas and speculation further adding that such amendments should also be extended to the mining sector which faces similar challenges.
Furthermore, Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana said that the amendments are in line with the Namibian constitution and the United Nation’s (UN) resolutions on marine resources.
“In the past, there was a notion that right holders had rights over the state to allocate the resources but these resources belong to the state and no one can allocate them on a personal capacity” Kawana said.
He further said that with the amendments fishing rights should rather be allocated on a social spectrum to address the high numbers of malnutrition in the country.
The proposed enhanced role of the government will be carried through the State-owned fishing firm National Fishing Corporation of Namibia which means that the government will not only issue fishing rights and quotas as it is but it will also be able to fish with no legal restrictions.
The amendments come after the government last year lost a court case when the Windhoek High Court found that the allocation of horse mackerel quotas to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia and two fishing associations were unlawful and irregular.
According to court documents, Namsov and Atlantic Harvesters were asking to not only review and set aside horse mackerel quotas allocated to some of their competitors and to declare that those allocations were contrary to the Marine Resources Act or the Constitution, but also to order the minister to immediately implement an alleged decision to award bigger quotas to the two companies.