Fishing Sector Jittery Over Seismic Surveys

The Namibian fishing industry is deeply concerned about oil and gas seismic exploration at the coast that is feared to negatively affect fish catches.

Stakeholders in the fishing industry, particularly the pole and line tuna, and pilchards, sectors are concerned that loud booms from seismic airguns are scaring off fish, thus costing the industry millions of dollars.

Seismic surveys involve bouncing sound waves off the seabed to detect oil and gas deposits for exploration.

Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, raised the concern at the annual fishing sector execution plan workshop underway at Walvis Bay.

“The known environmental impacts of marine phosphate mining already continue to be a major concern for the fishing industry and its survival. However, like with the marine phosphate mining issue, it is important that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism work co-operatively to sustainably manage our ecosystems,” he stated.

He says although the fishing industry understands that seismic surveys are being cleared by the mines ministry under the Petroleum Act, it still remains a major concern which resulted in the industry seeking legal aice on the way forward.

“The large pelagic fishing association has obtained legal opinion which made it clear that seismic surveys still need to comply with the Environmental Management Act, requiring an environmental clearance certificate under that Act. Whatever the outcomes are , the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is still the custodian over Namibia’s marine ecosystem and needs to be consulted before any decision is made,” Amukwa further reasoned.

He explained that the fishing industry supports the seismic taskforce that coordinates the concerned issues and promotes cooperative research so that seismic exploration and fishing “can both effectively operate”.

Amukwa also highlighted that eco-labelling still remains an issue, saying that without internationally certified sustainability policies Namibia’s hake sector in particular is being closed out of value-added markets such as the wealthy northern European countries.

“Marine Stewardship Council eco-labelling currently remains the benchmark in international markets. A decision must be taken regarding the eco-labelling route Namibia takes if we are to remain credible,” Amukwa said at the planning session.

The Namibian fishing industry is currently in consultation with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to discuss the Annual Fishing Sectoral Execution Plan for 20142015 within the context of the ministry’s five-year sectoral plan to align with the National Development Plan 4.

Source : New Era