Walvis Bay — The wet landed horse mackerel sector has scored a small victory following an announcement by fisheries minister Albert Kawana that no wet quota would be converted to freezer.
Kawana in a letter addressed to the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Industries chairperson, Matti Amukwa, yesterday rejected the conversion of wet to freezer for the 2021 fishing season. However, the minister will allow freezer to wet conversion, with the view to sustain employment in land-based factories.
A freezer quota is when the fish caught by vessels is exported without processing, while a wet quota is when the catch is processed on land at a processing plant in the country, thus creating or sustaining jobs. Horse mackerel’s current allocation ratio is 60% freezer and 40% wet.
Certain industry players have been petitioning the minister for more allocation to wet to create and sustain more jobs. Amukwa yesterday confirmed Kawana’s letter, saying it was a welcoming move.
“The decision by the minister is welcomed by the industry as we also want to see the horse mackerel gradually moving to 70% wet landed and 30% freezer like in hake,” Amukwa said.
He added that the hake ratio is 70% wet landed and 30% freezer and has created more than 10 000 jobs compared to the 2 000 of horse mackerel, which has the biggest total allowable catch at the moment. “We will gradually see an increase in wet landed as the process needs to be done slowly to lessen the impact it might have on the freezer sector as they also made investments in term of vessels,” Amukwa explained.
He added that the total allowable catch for horse mackerel is way too big for the 2 000 jobs it created. “Those are the imbalance that we need to address. Not to say that everything will go to wet but that we will have to balance both sectors to create more jobs,” he said.
Namibia currently has three horse mackerel processing factories, namely Seaflower Pelagic Processing, Gendev and Tunacor that are all operating at Walvis Bay and employing about 2 000 people, while a total of nine vessels are operating in the freezer sector.
In his letter seen by New Era, Kawana argued the reason for horse mackerel quota allocation as wet fish is for the sustainability of onshore operations until the end of the fishing season.
According to Kawana, horse mackerel wet quotas are allocated for onshore processing at the factories for value addition and employment creation as outlined under National Development Plan 5. “Therefore I will not consider any request for conversion of horse mackerel wet fish to freezer, without a convincing and verifiable motivation that the requested conversion is intended to promote more employment as well as setting up onshore processing plants with a view to processing other marine species other than horse mackerel. Now that the quota has been allocated to those with fishing rights before the start of the fishing season, I have so far declined requests to convert from wet to freezer,” Kawana said in the letter.
He however indicated that he will approve requests for conversion from freezer fish to wet fish for onshore processing and employment preservation. President of the Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association, Jason Angala yesterday told New Era that they are happy with Kawana’s decision. “It is a welcoming move for us as we are tyring to save this sector while looking at creating more jobs. We are indeed happy that we will be consulting as a industry especially when it comes to the request to have wet landed converted to freezer,” Angala said.