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Fisheries minister Bernard Esau defended his decisions when allocating horse mackerel quotas. (Photo: Stock File)

Minister justifies controversial quota allocation

Click on the flag for more information about Namibia NAMIBIA
Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 03:40 (GMT + 9)

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernard Esau justified his rationale behind his decisions horse mackerel quota allocation, after having been accused of misusing his ministerial powers to benefit certain firms. He also received signs of support from two organisations that defended his steps.

One of the firms Esau was accused of favouring was Fishcor, which was allocated a horse mackerel quota when it is a non-right hake holder, which contravenes the Marine Resources Act of 2000 because it is state-owned, The Namibian informed.

In his defense, the minister explained he had done so in order to save 520 jobs, stating the firm needed as much aid as possible for it to operate at the optimum level.

"As a responsible minister, I would rather act than let a state-owned enterprise under my ministry sink like that," Esau justified.

"I can allocate a quota to whom I want. In this case, 520 jobs were at stake. I will do all I can to save these jobs. The only whip I have are the quotas. I can reduce a quota or add to it depending on how well you are doing like getting a new factory or acquiring a vessel, irrespective of whether you are a Namibian company or not," pointed out the minister addressing a press conference at Lüderitz last week.

Meanwhile, the Midwater Trawling Association (MTA) of Namibia and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) have defended Esau, stating it is their duty to defend the image of their industry and ensure that true facts are published.

MTA deputy chairperson Sharon Neumbo stressed the fact that there has been an increase in investments in vessels and onshore facilities over the past two years, resulting in more jobs and said the association she belongs to commended Esau and his staff on their "hard work and support" for the industry.

Besides, Tucna president Paulus Hango claimed there are companies that have made billions of dollars over the years in the horse mackerel industry, "and now it seems that they don't want to share these resources with anyone else".

Referring to allegations expressed in The Namibian that Esau was abusing his ministerial position when allocating fishing rights and quotas, Hango challenged the authors to explain their statement.

"If you write about somebody and make allegations, it has to be done through a proper registered medium, and the name of the person who writes such a story must be known," he said.

The union leader called the article a "propaganda paper" to tarnish the image of the ministry and to derail the policy of value addition of fish products and job-creation initiatives.

The spotlight was on the allocation of a 27,000-tonne quota to Omualu Fishing, with claims that Esau had an interest in Omualu but the minister denied that he had any shares in Omualu in comments in an English weekly newspaper.

Hango pointed out there was nothing wrong with giving a quota to Omualu, since the company bought a fishing vessel; owns a factory; and employs about 700 people - most of them women.

Related articles:

- Fisheries Minister defends himself of accusations
- Minister of fisheries accused of stirring 'conflict of interests'
- Three fishing firms take Govt to Court



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