THE horse mackerel freezer landed fishing sector made close to N$48 million during the 2022 fishing season from the bycatch of angelfish, alfonsinos and reds (dentex).
The spokesperson of the fisheries ministry, Uaripi Katjiukua, told The Namibian.
“The biomass of the species in question has not been determined to be high enough for a TAC to be allocated. TAC is an important management tool for the conservation of fishing stock, hence, the TAC is strictly set based on the best available scientific data,” she said.
The fishing industry has been harvesting these fish species, which are regarded as by-catches. They are caught incidentally by fishermen while targeting their allocated fish species.
Preliminary data for the 2022 fishing season indicated that the industry caught over 752,3 tonnes of angel fish, 89,1 tonnes of alfonsino, and 1145,8 tonnes of reds.
The angel fish is sold at N$35/kg, reds at N$17/kg, and alfonsino at N$27/kg.
The only deterrent at the moment are levies on these fish species charged at N$7/kg for alfonsino, N$6/kg for angelfish and N$5/kg for reds.
By law, a fishing vessel is only allowed to catch 5% of the by catch. The by-catches are mainly caught by freezer horse mackerel trawlers.
Sources in the industry say the levies serve no purpose as there is a lack of control measures when it comes to the landing of fish.
“How is it possible that licences on a particular quota species, that is, horse-mackerel granted to freezer trawler operators, with landing reports showing more than 35% up to 45% of total landings is by-catch instead of horse mackerel? Is there an unwritten law that 5% bycatch is not applicable to their vessels?” questioned the sources.
The sources estimate that the by-catch is about 2 650 tonnes per trawler per year.
“Has nobody at the ministry ever discovered this, or is this also just a cover-up resulting in millions of losses to the government? Will the ministry ever start controlling our fish resources if the simplest checks and balances are not done correctly? Namibians who are not part of the fishing industry do not know where the loopholes are?” questioned the sources.
There is little information available on how much by-catch the industry has been harvesting over the years, as the ministry’s last annual report that was published on its website is that of 2012-2013.
Marine researcher Panduleni Nashima explained that having species caught alongside other species is difficult to manage and poses challenges for its management.
He proposes that advanced studies be conducted to determine whether the current by-catch fees are adequate or if adjustments are required.
“The recommendation is to continue researching all bycatch species to determine their habitat, as well as their migration routes, which should be avoided by those targeting their allocated species, if possible. Moreover, if by-catch species are seasonal, fishers can avoid catching during those seasons to avoid increased catches of by-catch,” he said.
He added that the dynamic nature of the marine environment, combined with the effects of climate change, may make it challenging for researchers and fishery managers to effectively manage the sustainability of fishes caught as by-catch. Businessman Desmond Amunyela, who is also a player in the fishing industry, believes the ministry needs to have fees levied on bycatch.
“Records are available now over the years. We now have an idea of how much is made from every tonne of hake and that data can be used to give you the basis upon which to determine to levy, but nothing must remain the same,” he said.