By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — After decades of overfishing combined with environmental changes, Namibia’s sardine population has finally collapsed, writes Conservation Namibia, a publication of the Namibian Chamber of Environment. “Falling by 99.5% from an estimated 11 million tonnes in the 1960s to a tiny 50,000 tonnes in 2015, this resource is exhausted.”
Despite calls for a moratorium on sardine fishing by scientists since 1995, this was only implemented in 2018 for a period of three years, according to the Chamber of the Environment. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) is now contemplating reopening sardine fishing, but the stocks may not have recovered sufficiently.
The fishing industry provides jobs for more than 10,000 workers at the country’s port towns of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz in the Kharas Region, according to figures by the Erongo Regional Council. The industry has, over the years, gone through bouts of stress caused by quota corruption, overfishing, and climate change factors making it unstable for its workers.
Fishermen have blamed the government and fishing companies over the years for unfair treatment and mismanagement within the industry.
In 2017, local newspapers reported that ex-fisheries minister, Bernard Esau, who is currently facing charges of fraud and corruption, allegedly downplayed the sardine and pilchard shortage despite advice by scientists at the time calling for a ban.
One-third of the planet’s assessed fishing stocks are already being overfished. According to the World Wildlife Organization, overfishing can cause also loopholes in entire ecosystems worldwide and creates an imbalance that can “erode the food web”, and can alter the size of fish that are remaining and affect how these fish reproduce including the speed at which they mature.
The demand for fish will continue to increase globally leaving more businesses and jobs dependent on dwindling food fish stocks and high-demand seafood will also continue to drive overexploitation and environmental degradation.
“The collapse of the sardine fish stocks in this highly productive ecosystem is a stark example of the severe repercussions of unsustainable management combining with negative environmental conditions. By delaying the moratorium for many years after fisheries scientists sounded the alarm, the hole was dug ever deeper for this economic sector.
“Getting out of the hole will require a different mindset to the one that got us into it – rather than just focusing on short-term economic gains, Namibia needs a long-term ecosystem-based recovery plan.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 24 October 2022]
Photo source: Conservation Namibia. Credit: NACSO.
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