Interview with Hon. Dr. Abraham Iyambo
Minister of Fisheries & Marine Research of
Windhoek, 2nd, June 2006 - The Mission Statement of the Ministry is very large and cross-sectored. What are the scope of action & contribution and the responsibilities of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources?
The responsibility of this ministry is the management of fisheries resources as well as marine resources and the added new sector of aquaculture. Our duty is to ensure the protection, conservation and sustainable management of Namibian fisheries.
Therefore we conduct research to look at the state of our fish stock, and to set appropriate levels of harvest to avoid over exploitation of the resources, always based on scientific study.
We want to ensure the enforcement of the policies, laws and regulations through our monitoring control and surveillance strategies to be sure all the players operating in our waters are acting according to the laws as well as international standards of sustainable fisheries management.
The third component is to be sure that fishing benefits the Namibians, the economy and the investors themselves. The investors have to receive value for money and operate in a positive environment for business.
In the last 16 years, since the independence from South Africa, the fishing sector has gone through several changes becoming a benchmark in the international fishing. What would you say have been your main achievements?
Namibia Fisheries sector has drastically changed since the independence in 1990. Before we didn’t have a regime protecting the resources, it was a free for all, consequently very destructive and hardly without benefits for the Namibians. Many changes have occurred since them like for example Namibiaziation, which encourages Namibians to participate and benefit from the national resources.
We are mindful of the lack of capital; therefore it makes sense to work together as partners because we have the markets, the skills and the capital to do it. Some Namibian entrepreneurs have proved that with harmony and clear business environment both Namibians and foreigners can work together.
This ministry has been working to change the general education skills and working force; consequently the environment has changed by training Namibians at different levels of education such as: bachelors, masters and doctorates. Right now we can find Namibians with degrees in marine scientist, a couple of years ago were impossible to find.
Due to all this changes right now fisheries contribute more than 23% of the value of total Namibian exports. In terms of contribution to the GDP, it has been fluctuating between 7-10% and employes around 40,000-50,000 people. The final value of Namibian products is 3,5 billion N$ being fisheries the second most important sector in the economy. Much has changed for the benefit of the country and investors.
In the year 2004 Namibia suffered a decrease of fish prices in Europe of about 40%, what are your actual strategy to be able to go through another bad moment for the Namibia fisheries?
Nowadays we are landing between 600,000-700,000 metric tonnes annually, only 2% are for local markets while all the rest is dedicated for exports. The Namibian fisheries are highly competitive, and depending of the species we export them to specific markets.
Hake and monk are particularly for the European market. At the moment Namibia is the top supplier of hake in the market supplying 75,000-93,000 metric tonnes. The value of the Namibian hake annually is about 2 million Euros. The deep sea fishing goes 95% for the American market, and fish like mackerel is mainly for the African market: Ghana, Mozambique, DRC, Nigeria and Cameroon. Other species like crab and crayfish are mainly for the Asian Market.
In terms of the problems we have had in 2004, it was a global phenomenon. The operation cost increased dramatically, mainly due to the oil prices and the appreciation of the Namibian dollar.
The concession system TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and the VMS (Satellite Bases Vessel Monitoring System) are some of your biggest threats in order to achieve sustainability, how do you think it will develop in the future?
Our fisheries management develops different strategies to avoid the destruction of resources. We are compromised with the allocation of quarters decided by scientific research, which is something we want to strengthen. We want to ensure people catch the amount of fish according to their quotas; the players must work according to the rules. We want to concentrate on sciences, monitoring and control of the education of the workforce. We need political will to avoid the destruction of resources; we will not compromise the jobs and economy by eliminating the stocks.
Aquaculture is growing in importance every day, what is the role of aquaculture in the economy? What opportunities do you see there?
Anybody who wants to think of investment should not miss that opportunity; we have done a lot of homework in terms of analysis of the advantages of Namibia to be involved in aquaculture. We had been working in the policies, the laws, and regulations to facilitate investments. We have even created a one-stop-shop concerning the aquaculture. We don’t want investors to become frustrated because of bureaucracy. Investors should look at these opportunities and act now.
Aquaculture has the potential to change the economical landscape of the country; it provides opportunities for investors. We have competitive advantages as a country: a coast of around 1,500 km which much of it is inhabitant, the environment is not spoiled and the lack of heavy industries makes it a unique place in the world. To all this we have to add the higher productivity of the Benguela Currant despite its turbulent waters.
We are also using our inland water and under land water. We want our rivers and lakes to be baskets of food. Aquaculture will develop the marine culture which is for big investors and inland production where communities can grow different kinds of fish without the need of huge investments.
Now is the right time for investors to come to Namibia. We don’t have many players now. The time to grab the opportunity is now.
Where do you see the fishing industry in 3 years time?
My intention is to continue with the right management of fisheries, diversify our products and markets and increase the value of Namibia fisheries from N$ 3,5 billion to N$ 4,5 billion. I hope that aquaculture is able to double the number of jobs and for that we need to create value added products. We want to export value-added products and increase the contribution of fisheries to GDP stabilising around 12% too.
What would be your personal message to our readers?
I want to encourage readers in other countries to come to Namibia and see the opportunities concerning Aquaculture. We are waiting for them; we’ll show them around and the value addition. We want foreigners to see the opportunities to make business in Namibia.