MINISTER of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana has defended his decision to allocate more than 80 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel to the Fishrot-tainted National Fishing Corporation (Fishcor) for the current fishing season.
Fishcor has ended its relationship with Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) – the company that used to facilitate the utilisation of its quotas.
Although the quotas allocated to Fishcor are still labelled as “government objectives”, Kawana said the responsibility to implement these quotas has been removed from Fishcor.
He did not explain how Fishcor would utilise the quotas allocated to it, since the company’s bank accounts were recently frozen.
He said the normal arrangement through which Fishcor receives quotas and passes them on to other companies would continue.
He said some of the quotas allocated to Fischor would be passed on to one of its subsidiaries at Lüderitz to sustain employment.
Fishcor’s Seaflower Whitefish and Seacope normally only deal with hake.
The remainder of Fishcor’s quotas would be used to sustain the jobs of former SPP employees who are currently employed on a four-month contract with Tunacor at Walvis Bay.
Fishcor’s arrangement with Tunacor ends in March.
“The arrangement that I inherited was that Fishcor is allocated a quota and then it allocates quotas to subsidiaries. Some of the quotas allocated to Fishcor normally go to Seaflower Pelagic Processing, but I have terminated that controversial agreement because the quotas were not utilised as per the terms of the agreement,” Kawana said.
Kawana also defended his decision to allocate the majority of horse mackerel fishing quotas to Tunacor, a politically connected company, and its subsidiaries for the current fishing season.
Companies that operate under the Tunacor flagship dominate the list of firms that were allocated horse mackerel fishing quotas by Kawana this year.
Namsov Fishing Enterprises, which now operates under Tunacor, is the highest recipient of horse mackerel quotas, with 17 000 metric tonnes.
Kawana yesterday told The Namibian that Namsov and other companies under Tunacor were allocated more quotas, because “Tunacor is by far the largest employer in the fishing industry”.
He said qualifying criteria such as having access to a fishing vessel and a processing factory were also considered.
Kawana said Tunacor’s share of quotas could also be beefed up by new entrants in the industry, whom he said were selling off their quotas.
“I know some of these guys are selling their quotas to some of these companies. Maybe Tunacor is offering them better terms and that’s why Tunacor’s quotas are high like that,” the minister said.
Tunacor has a fleet of three horse mackerel freezer trawlers with a capacity of 105 000 metric tonnes, which include the recently acquired Heinaste vessel from Samherji, which has subsequently been renamed ‘Tutungeni’, with a capacity of 40 000 metric tonnes.
Tunacor’s freezer trawler’s capacity is the same as that of Cavema fishing, which has four freezer trawlers with a capacity of 105 000 metric tonnes.
Tunacor has for years been accused of receiving preferential fishing quotas from former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau.
Most of the companies under the Tunacor flagship are owned or linked by politicians, their friends, family members and cronies.
This includes companies owned by president Hage Geingob’s daughters, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba’s family members and many other well-known political figures.
Namsov was acquired by Tunacor two years ago at around N$230 million after its owners, Bidvest, was starved of quotas by Esau.
This move was Tunacor’s door into the horse mackerel freezer playing field.
Other companies (joint ventures) under Tunacor are also dominating the list of entities that were allocated horse mackerel quotas by Kawana.
Before 2014/15, Namsov was the biggest player in the horse mackerel industry (with 70% of the quotas) and operated only with freezer trawlers, which did not require the company to invest in land-based operations.
Documents seen by The Namibian show that Kawana has also determined the quotas reserved for governmental objectives, which are normally allocated to Fishcor.
About 20 000 metric tonnes have been reserved to raise funds for the drought-relief programme.
The minister said the government would continue with an open auction as the new method to dispose of quotas for governmental objectives.
This is despite the government not being able to successfully auction all quotas meant to raise money for it last year.
Only N$8,1 million was made from the quotas initially valued at more than N$600 million.
The minister said he has consulted widely on the auction option, and industry players have bought into the idea that “the only transparent way of disposing of the governmental objective quota is through auction or public tender”.
“I have consulted the industry on how to dispose of the government quota, and most of them do not have a problem with the auction. They made several proposals, but they have all agreed with the method ..,” he said.
He said he would make an announcement on the final decision.
In total, 188 000 metric tonnes of freezer and wet horse mackerel allocations were dished out to old, 2012 and new entrants. This is besides the allocations to non-right-holders like Fishcor for governmental objectives, which brings the total allocation to 330 000 metric tonnes. There are only 15 new entrants that received allocations.