New fishing quotas must benefit the masses

WITH government expected to announce successful applicants for fishing rights in March this year, the fishrot saga and its implications should now more than ever, push responsible authorities to rectify previous wrongs and allocate rights to entities that have life changing impact on our societies.

In this view, we are appalled by how companies like Namibia Dried Fish in Usakos (our main story this week) which are virtually central to the economy of the town and take hundreds of people off the street are not considered as beneficiaries of the country’s fish resource.

We opine that in the paradigm of development-led fishing, the potential of value adding factories across the country should be harnessed and improved to improve the livelihoods of previously disadvantaged Namibians, most of which are unskilled.

This is also in view of the fact that government has reiterated its desire on implementing a 70/30 policy on horse mackerel in particular, whereby 70% of the fish will be landed wet and value added on-shore – mainly in order to maximize on job creation.

This will drive the industry towards other factors such as the building of human and institutional capacities in view of building a knowledge economy that supports innovation, research and development and the promotion of good governance of the fisheries sector in which communities and citizens participate in decision making and in fishing resources, and in which there is equity in the distribution of benefits.

While the fishrot showed how rules were broken to the detriment of the masses and the industry as a whole, we are reminded that the ministry of fisheries and marine resources’ obligations under NDP5 is to ensure that fishing quota allocations are based on performance of right holders, and not just historical entitlements. This therefore warrants merit based allocations and such merit must be driven by the national objective of inclusive development.

The processes of old in which fishing right holders would sell quotas which resulted in poor benefits trickling down to the masses should be a thing of past. Clearly, this practice not only defeats the purpose of building capacity to exercise a right but also takes away the objective of inclusivity and empowerment of Namibians to participate in this fishery.

We are of the firm belief that auctioning quotas to the highest bidder is the main reason why the fisheries sector contributes so little to the fiscus yet it carries a vast resource.

This is synonymous to what was stated by the United Nations (UN) under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Africa in 2012 that Africa incurs immense losses yearly through lack of adequate strategy and focus on the management of its natural resource base.

With minor exceptions, most countries in Africa we are net exporters of raw materials that fuel prosperity and development in other regions. Africa is largely seen as a price taker rather than a price-maker, with a marginal role in international trade and Namibia is no exception.

To change this, the allocation of new fishing rights presents a starting point where we could either pour new wine in an old bottle or alternatively change the system and look towards value addition and increasing benefits that trickle down to the masses.