Pilchards will remain off-limits for commercial fishing

Niël Terblanché

The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Derek Klazen, declared during a recent Cabinet briefing that the moratorium on commercial fishing of pilchards will be extended for another year.

This decision comes in light of the ongoing concerns regarding the health of the pilchard resource, which has not yet returned to a biologically sustainable state.

The minister said that even if pilchards are incidentally caught as by-catch, it does not signify a full recovery of the species.

Instead, he stressed the importance of relying on scientific research to determine the sustainable yield and biomass of the pilchard population.

He stressed that if the biomass remains insufficient, it would be unwise to open it up and allow the Namibian industry to again harvest the fish.

“The zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Pilchard will continue,” Klazen stated.

He cited the results of an acoustic survey conducted in March 2023, which indicated that the pilchard stock remains in an unhealthy state.

“We will persist with our research programs to closely monitor pilchard stocks and will consider reopening the fishery only when the stock has recovered to a biologically sustainable level,” he added.

In response to requests from the fishing industry, particularly the Wet Landed Horse Mackerel Association, for permission to conduct fishing within the 200-meter isobath during the winter, Klazen acknowledged the changing climate conditions.

He said that lower water temperatures are now being experienced earlier than before, causing larger-sized horse mackerel to move to shallower waters closer to the shore.

However, Klazen reminded industry stakeholders that the 200-meter isobath restriction on trawling and longlining is one of several management and control measures enforced in Namibia to regulate fishing activities.

Consequently, the moratorium on pilchard fishing will persist while the Ministry continues its research program to closely monitor the species and will only reopen fishing activities when the stock has fully recovered to a biologically sustainable level.

Klazen also highlighted a recent Cabinet Decision that allocated a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for six commercially exploited species during the 2023 fishing season.

These species include Hake, Monkfish, Horse Mackerel, Seals, Crab, and Rock Lobster, with their respective quotas determined to ensure their sustainable management. The decision to extend the moratorium on the commercial fishing of pilchards is tangible evidence of the fisheries ministry’s commitment to preserving the long-term health of this vital pelagic fish species and maintaining responsible management practices in Namibia’s waters.

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