Fisheries Minister concerned about overexploitation of freshwater resources

Niël Terblanché

Derek Klazen, Namibia’s Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, has raised a red flag regarding the escalating issue of unregulated fishing and the overexploitation of the country’s freshwater resources during his annual fishing address.

The minister’s remarks during his annual fishing industry address shed light on pressing challenges and initiatives aimed at ensuring the sustainability of Namibia’s aquatic ecosystems.

He pointed to the growing problem of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which has garnered significant media attention over the past year.

The minister reaffirmed the Ministry’s commitment to using all available resources to combat practices that jeopardize the sustainability of the nation’s aquatic resources and the credibility of its fishing industry.

“The Ministry is determined to tackle IUU fishing within its jurisdiction head-on,” he said.

According to Klazen, Namibia’s inland fisheries, comprising rivers, dams, and oshanas, are vital to the livelihoods of approximately 300,000 rural community members.

This sector currently yields approximately 6,000 tonnes of fish annually, valued at around N$150 million. However, declining fish stocks in inland rivers, lakes, and dams have prompted the Ministry to engage communities in the management of fisheries resources, aligning with traditional customary land tenure systems legalized through government gazettes.

These community-managed fisheries, also known as fisheries reserves, were established under sections 22 and 29 of the Inland Fisheries Resources Act of 2003, positioning Namibia as a regional leader in empowering small-scale fishers for sustainable and equitable access to inland aquatic resources.

Research has demonstrated a remarkable five-fold increase in fish stocks at one of these reserves, Sikunga, compared to adjacent open-access fishing areas.

This success not only enhances food security but also improves the nutrition of community members. Given the transboundary nature of shared inland fisheries and the predominance of small-scale community-run fisheries within these basins, Klazen stressed the necessity for a harmonized, transboundary approach to effectively manage these areas.

In collaboration with Angola and Botswana, the Ministry has participated in drafting a new Transboundary Management Plan for the Cubango-Kavango-Okavango Basin, receiving funding from USAID through the Resilient Waters Program, with the Namibia Nature Foundation serving as the mediating agent on behalf of OKACOM (Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission).

To address the challenges faced by inland fisheries, the Ministry is implementing a National Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries (NPOA-SSF), aligning with the Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines).

The minister acknowledged that aquaculture in Namibia faces formidable challenges, including its low economic viability due to the cold climate, slow growth of local fish species, and the high cost of fish feed.

Additionally, limited access to land, water resources, affluent communal areas, and inadequate aquaculture financing constrain investment opportunities. In response, the Ministry, with support from the FAO, has developed a revised National Aquaculture Strategic Plan (2022-2026), aligned with the SADC Protocol on Fisheries.

The plan advocates for the introduction of subsidy schemes, providing start capital, seeds, and fish feed to bolster the small-scale aquaculture sector, promoting household food security and improved nutrition.

The National Aquaculture Strategic Plan (2022-2026) also calls for a resource mobilization drive, as the Ministry collaborates with development partners to pool resources for conducting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to establish and declare aquaculture development zones (ADZs) while scaling up small aquaculture projects.

Klazen expressed deep concern over the widespread illegal fishing activities taking place in inland waterbodies, where even citizens of neighbouring countries are involved.

He announced his intention to engage counterparts from neighbouring nations to harmonize laws and enforcement efforts, ensuring the preservation of freshwater resources for future generations.

Klazen stated that the Ministry of Fisheries remains resolute in its commitment to safeguarding the nation’s aquatic ecosystems and fostering sustainable fisheries management practices.

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