Hake fishery in Namibia attains globally recognised sustainable fishing standard

NAMIBIA – Namibia has received the first Marine Stewardship Council certification for its hake trawl and longline fishery, becoming the second country in Africa to meet the globally recognised standard for fishing.

The certification is undertaken by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international non-profit organisation which sets science-based standard for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability.

The council works with fisheries around the world to combat overfishing, supporting those that are small scale or in the Global South with tools and expertise as they work towards certification to the MSC standard.

South African Hake fishery was the first to be certified in the region in 2004 and with Namibia attaining it, is a recognition of progress made by the government and fishing industry in rebuilding hake stocks, which in the past were decimated by overfishing by foreign fleets.

At the peak of overfishing, 1million tonnes of hake were caught in Namibia waters. It’s now 160,000 tonnes, indicates MCS.

The menace has not only been in the Southern African countries as more than a third of fish stocks around the world are overfished, yet sustainable fisheries are more productive and resilient to change according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The World Bank has estimated that the amount of fishing in African waters would need to be reduced by over 50 percent in order to reach an equilibrium that protects both fish stocks and profits.

“As custodians of our natural resources, it is our responsibility to manage Namibia’s fisheries in a way that ensures the long-term health and biodiversity of the oceans, and at the same time allows our fishing industry to maximise the value of the resource for the current and future generations of the Namibian people in line with the provisions of article 95(l) of the Namibian constitution

“MSC certification of the Namibian Hake is an independent endorsement that our efforts are working, and a signal to retailers, brands and fish lovers around the world that the Namibian Hake is sustainable and it is here to stay,” said Dr. A Kawana Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Government of Namibia.

To be MSC certified, a fishery must show the fish stock is healthy, that it minimises its impact on the environment and has effective management in place.

Serving as proof the certification, a MSC ecolabel is placed on the pack of the product, indicating that its fully traceable to a sustainable source.

A global surge in consumer interest in sustainably sourced products means demand is outpacing supply.

Peter Pahl, Chair of the Namibian Hake Fishing Association, said, “Demand for sustainable hake is growing, especially in Europe. Having MSC certification will help the Namibian Hake industry stay competitive and meet demand in our existing markets, as well as expand into new markets where retailers and brands preferentially stock MSC certified fish to meet their consumers’ expectations.”

MSC certification will ensure the Namibian fishery can continue to export to markets in Southern Europe and will help it expand into retail markets in Northern Europe.

Supermarkets and brands in these markets often prefer the fish and seafood they stock to be MSC-certified.

Industry players have welcomed the move with the likes of Nomad Foods, which owns the Birdseye, Findus and Iglo brands, committing to source 100% of its fish and seafood from sustainable sources by the end of 2025.

“We have supported the Namibia hake trawl and longline fishery on its certification journey for a number of years and expect to be one of the first companies to bring products made from MSC certified Namibian Hake to European consumers,” said Stefan Descheemaeker, CEO, Nomad Foods said.

The MSC certification is expected to help the sector grow, benefiting the economy, communities and creating more jobs.

Fishing is the third largest sector of Namibia’s economy, with hake making up the majority of the sector and directly employing more than 10,000 people.

The bulk of hake industry jobs go to women, who clean, fillet and pack the fish for export in factories around the ports where the hake is landed.

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