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Namibia Increases Efforts to Combat Sea Crime

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Namibia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is increasing patrol missions in its fight against illegal fishing.

As part of the Agreement on Port State Measures, the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Namibia also is conducting joint patrols with neighboring countries.

“These patrol missions are undertaken to observe and eliminate illegal fishing activities and fine offenders who are found violating fisheries laws,” Uaripi Katjikua, spokeswoman for Nambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, told The Namibian newspaper. “In addition to regular patrol missions, special operations are conducted to target areas where reports of illegal fishing are received.”

In 2018, 400,000 tons of fish were illegally caught in Namibian waters, according to Sea Around Us, an international research organization.

“This figure is so large that, if true, Namibia’s fisheries will almost certainly collapse in several years,” Roman Grynburg,professor of economics at the University of Namibia, wrote in The Namibian. “It would not be the first time that foreign nations have pillaged our marine resources but, if correct, it may be the last.”

It also leaves far fewer sardines, anchovies, hake and horse mackerel for Namibia’s artisanal fishermen to catch. Artisanal fishing indirectly supports about 280,000 people in the country, according to an April 2022 report by The Namibian.

Chinese industrial vessels hauled in almost all of the illegally caught fish. China commands the world’s largest distant-water fishing fleet and is the world’s worst IUU offender, according to the IUU Fishing Index.

Namibia has taken other steps in recent years to battle illegal fishing.

In 2019, the country allocated $2.7 million to fight illegal fishing and partnered with Sea Shepherd Global. This year, the partnership, which operates with the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Namibian Police, has successfully carried out joint surveillance, according to Sea Shepherd.

In September, Sea Shepherd and its ship Ocean Warrior helped Namibian authorities arrest a trawler that carried an illegal amount of shark fins.

“The presence of the Ocean Warrior is a big deterrence to illegal fishers,” Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s director of campaigns, said on the organization’s website. “The Ocean Warrior has become the shepherd of the borderlands, watching over schools of horse mackerel. When the ship is there, the poachers do not cross and the fish swim free.”

Namibian authorities also are considering drones to help track vessels suspected of illicit activity in its more than 500,000-square-kilometer exclusive economic zone and its 1,500-kilometer shoreline.

“In deciding on the use of drones, a number of things needs to be determined,” the ministry said in a statement to Namibian newspaper New Era. “Amongst others is the range, the usefulness of the pictures taken by the drones, and the ability to detect IUU fishing activities at night.”

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