Norwegian scientist confirms pilchard depletion

26 Nov 2017 16:00pm
WALVIS BAY, 26 NOV (NAMPA) – A Norwegian scientist on Saturday reaffirmed the depletion of the pilchard fish species in Namibian waters after conducting a survey along the country’s coastline.
The pilchard industry was the biggest employer of more than 3 000 people in the Walvis Bay fishing sector, before it started experiencing low catches for consecutive seasons since 2015. United Fishing Enterprises and Etosha Fishing already had to retrench over 3 000 employees this year due to low catches.
Responding to media queries during a briefing on the survey aboard the Norwegian research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen, Chief Scientist Bjorn Erik Axelsen said there is no doubt pilchards are depleted due to overfishing in the past.
Axelsen added that apart from overfishing, the current lack of pilchard in Namibian waters could be linked to climate change and migration.
He said there is no guarantee that the pilchard stock will recover.
However, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhardt Esau said in February this year that pilchard stock is not depleted, and guaranteed that there is still enough fish if sustainably harvested.
Last year, the ministry started giving less Total Allowable Catches (TAC) to right holders in this industry as a measure to allow stocks to recover.
It reduced the TAC from 25 000 Metric Tonnes (MT) to 14 000 MT for two years.
Axelsen said that while the pilchards deplete, the hake and horse mackerel managed to recover very well.
The Norwegian research vessel anchored at the Port of Walvis Bay is described as the third most advanced in the world.
It started the survey on pelagic fisheries and ecosystem from Morocco in May this year, sailing along the African Atlantic coast to Namibia and will proceed to Cape Town, South Africa where the survey will end in a few weeks.
The programme, which also includes surveys on oil and gas pollution as well as climate change, is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and other partners.
The FAO signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on this programme with the fisheries ministry as a representative for the Namibian Government.
FAO Representative to Namibia, Kiki Gbeho who spoke at the same event on Saturday, said the Nansen research programme is a continuation of research support to fisheries management while also considering the impact of climate change and pollution.
Gbeho said data collected is useful for better management of resources, policy and legislation formulation.
The organisation believes that once sustainable management is achieved, it leads to food security and poverty eradication.
“Oceans are, and will continue to be important to our economy, our lives and indeed solving these global challenges of hunger and poverty,” said Gbeho.
She emphasised that most of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities leading to pollution and depleted fisheries, hence the need to sustainably manage such resources.