NaCC investigates price fixing in the fishing industry

Martin Endjala and Ester Mbathera

The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) lodged a second investigation on 6 July, against various owners and operators of vessels.

According to a statement issued on 5 July, the NaCC suspects that there are companies that are imposing unfair purchase prices when negotiating quota usage fees with the fishing rights holders without vessels in the Horse Mackerel sub-sector.

“The various fishing vessels are referred to herein as the Respondents. The investigation is initiated in terms of Section 33 of the Competition Act No. 2 of 2003”.

NaCC has afforded these companies an opportunity within a period of 30 days to make any submissions which they may wish to make, as contemplated in terms of Section 33 of the Competition Act.

The NaCC spokesperson, Dina //Gowases said the names of the owners/operators, cannot be revealed at this stage.

“The Commission noted that the Government of the Republic of Namibia introduced a governmental objective Fish Quota Auction in 2020. Where it set a governmental objective fish quota reserve price of N$3000.

For the freezer quota and N$750 for the wet quota for the 2021 to 2023 period,” //Gowases stated.

The reserve price, she said, has since been increased to N$3 600 for the freezer quota and N$850 for the wet quota by the government for the 2024 fishing season.

The commission established 11 companies that harvest Horse Mackerel.

There are about 128 Horse Mackerel rights holders.

//Gowases said the companies that are being investigated have participated in the auction since its inception by buying certain amounts of quotas at the set reserve price without any negotiations.

She said the suspected companies negotiate quota usage fees to be paid to the fishing rights holders.

Payment is done before concluding quota usage agreements and the assessment of various quota usage agreements submitted to the commission.

She said the assessment indicates that suspects imposed lower quota usage fees on the fishing rights holders.

“These fees are well below the minimum government reserve price, instead of matching it or offering more. As a result of the respondents’ conduct of negotiating Horse Mackerel quota usage fees with the fishing rights holders.

Whilst offering non-negotiable prices to the government at the auction,” she explained.

She said that these companies face potential anti-competitive conduct by imposing an unfair purchase price on the fishing rights holders.

According to the commission, the investigation is to determine whether these companies have or are imposing unfair purchase prices.

The first investigation was initiated on 8 November 2023.

After the commission received information, on 18 August 2023 and 22 September 2023.

About possible collusion amongst various vessel owners and operators in the Namibian fishing industry.

The collusion is reportedly to be in the form of fixing fishing quota usage fees.

That is paid to fishing rights holders when they enter into quota usage agreements with the vessel owners/operators.

Erongo Marine Enterprises (EME), a subsidiary of South African-based company Oceana Group, appeared before the commission earlier this year on similar charges.

The EME managing director Martha Uumati was suspended by Oceana before she could appear to the commission.

A week before her suspension Uumati threatened to tell the commission the truth about the group’s operations in Namibia.

She has since parted ways with the company.

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