NAMIBIA – The government of Namibia is seeking to auction for the first time 60% share of its right to catch horse mackerel and hake off its coast to foreign fishing vessels in a bid to raise funds to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Government is in need of financial resources on an emergency basis with a view to mitigate the effects of Covid-19,” the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Albert Kawana stated.

According to reports by Reuters, the funding raised will be utilized to procure the required equipment and medicines to fight the pandemic.

“We do not produce medicines in Namibia nor do we manufacture medical equipment … In order to obtain these items, we have to buy them with foreign currency,” Kawana said.

The auction will see the sale of the right to catch 72,000 tons of horse mackerel and 11,000 tons of hake, of that 40% will be reserved for local buyers.

In addition, the right to catch 392 tons of monk fish will be sold to the highest bidder.

Fishing is the third-biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product, after mining and agriculture, contributing around N$10 billion ($783 million) in foreign currency earnings annually.

The government’s 60% quota is normally reserved for state-owned company Fishcor, which has been caught up in a corruption scandal.

Corruption allegations that have hit Namibia’s fishing industry saw two former ministers and four others accused of being involved in a scheme to award fishing licences to an Icelandic firm in return for kickbacks.

In December 2019 Samherji the Icelandic fishing company which was operating as SAGA Seafood in the country, announced that it was withdrawing from Namibia following the Fishrot exposé.

“Any further divestment in Namibia will be done in close dialogue with relevant authorities. Samherji will announce publicly as soon as there are new developments in the group’s exit from Namibia,” reiterated the company’s interim CEO Björgólfur Johannsson in February.

Johannsson was optimistic that there would be new opportunities for the company to fish in Namibian waters but that was dashed with the renewed seizure of the vessel Heinaste on 7 February.

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