NAMIBIA: Rough seas ahead for fishing industry

NAMIBIA: Rough seas ahead for fishing industry
Reuters AlertNet – London,England,UK

WALVIS BAY, 31 January (IRIN) – Battered by two years of a strong Namibian dollar, the country’s fishing sector – a key foreign exchange earner – is now in trouble, with retrenchments and factory closures on the horizon.

After mining, fishing is the largest industry in Namibia, bringing in just over US $52 million in export earnings each year and contributing around 8 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Approximately 600,000 mt of fish are landed annually, of which 90 percent is exported to Europe, the US and Asia.

“Namibian fish are internationally traded in euros and US dollars. The strong rand [to which the Namibian dollar is tied] results in lower earnings for our fish companies, while operating costs increase,” Namibia’s fisheries minister, Dr Abraham Iyambo, explained to IRIN.

“Higher prices for crude oil worldwide obviously means soaring fuel prices for the Namibian fleet of vessels, and a lot also use fuel to run the machinery freezing catches onboard,” Iyambo pointed out. “The sector has really suffered.”

The government has carefully nurtured the fishing industry since independence in 1990, reversing the decline in stocks caused by over-fishing by then apartheid South Africa. The sector employs about 14,000 people and runs a fleet of some 300 vessels.

But at the of 2004, two companies announced retrenchments affecting over 200 workers, which led to illegal strikes and a lockout of the protesters.

The largest of the two, Blue Ocean, a subsidiary of the South African-based Oceana Group, closed its fish processing factory at the Namibian port of Walvis Bay in December 2004, and is set to retrench 133 labourers on 31 January

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