Government urged to end illegal fishing and human trafficking

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LABOR unions in the Erongo region have challenged the government to tighten controls on Namibia’s coasts to combat illegal fishing and human trafficking.

Immanuel Petrus, regional organizer of the Mining, Metal, Maritime and Construction Workers Union (MMMC), says he is baffled by reports of a trafficking syndicate detected in Namibian waters as the government ratifies UN Convention 188. International Labor Organization (ILO).

“In this convention, it is stipulated that ships must keep records of the crew members on board. Many companies do just that, but the government doesn’t keep such records,” he says.

Petrus proposes that the government put in place a system whereby all employers must maintain a list of their crew on board ships, and update the list on a monthly basis.

He said those who do not should not be allowed to operate in Namibian waters. . .

“Currently, if you file a complaint against a foreign-flagged vessel, the likelihood of getting assistance from the Department of Labour, Industrial Relations and Job Creation is close to zero,” he says.

Petrus says the government lacks commitment to prevent forced labor in the fishing industry.

He referred to the recent trafficking of 60 fishermen, including eight Namibians, on board the vessel MV Shang Fu and the vessel Nata 2, owned by Nata Fishing Enterprises.

The fishermen were reportedly mistreated and some had neither work permits nor visas.

Unions said they were unaware of the existence of Nata Fishing Enterprises.

Chun-Ming Ou was fined N$175,000 on June 30 for violating marine resource regulations by discarding fish.

He was also charged N$50,000 for failing to carry an up-to-date drawing of the vessel, certified by a competent flag state authority.

Daniel Imbili, President of Namibia Fishing Industries (NFI) and Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Unions (FWU), said: “Let us come together as unions and government to find a system of work to protect our fishermen.

Knowledge Ipinge, regional leader of the Erongo Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, accuses some ministers and government officials of trading the lives of their fellow Namibians for the sake of their business interests in the industry.

“The Namibian working class is highly susceptible to deception and coercion due to weak implementation of port state measures and the reluctance of the Ministry of Labor to amend the Labor Act in line with the work of the fisheries convention, which was adopted by Parliament a few years ago,” he says.

NAVIGATE WITHOUT SUPERVISION

Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) operations manager Victoria Erasmus said the circumstances surrounding the two fishing vessels could be interpreted as illegal fishing.

She says the agency currently only observes about 71% of all fishing vessels.

This implies that approximately 29% of fishing trips are unobserved.

“Some vessels are exempted from carrying observers. . . and there are instances where the ATF will not have observers available to deploy.

“The agency’s workforce has shrunk over the years and the FOA’s financial situation makes recruitment difficult,” she says.

Erasmus expressed concern that some Namibian rights holders were not following proper procedures to request fisheries observers for their vessels.

She says when a fishing vessel is found in breach of the law, the agency republishes those cases, but says case reports are sometimes dismissed due to a lack of supporting evidence.

The agency is currently engaging the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Department of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to reduce the number of violation reports rejected.

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