Poor catches in foreign waters have forced Etosha Fishing Corporation to sell all three of its purse seine vessels resulting in the retrenchment of 19 employees.

The three-year ban on local pilchard catches imposed in 2018 has left the company with no other choice but to deploy its purse seine vessels to neighbouring Angola and other foreign fishing grounds in an effort to sustain jobs and the running costs of these vessels.

“Low catch rates have compounded the financial burden of operating our vessels in foreign waters, which has left the company with no other choice but to sell all our purse seine vessels. This means that we are no longer in a position to provide employment to the crew of these vessels,” Nezette Beukes, Acting MD of Etosha Fishing explains. She adds that some of the employees affected are net workers. The three vessels are the Prowess, Advance and Morgenster.

According to her negotiations with the recognised union, the Namibian Seamen and Allied Workers Union (NASAWU), officially started in January this year. Formal notification was also issued to the Office of the Labour Commissioner. “Affected staff members were initially informed of possible retrenchments as early as December 2018. We wanted to make sure that our employees are well informed from the start of the process to avoid any uncertainty and to ensure transparency throughout the process,” says Beukes.

“As a union we oppose any job losses, but Etosha is caught in a very difficult position. If they cannot catch, they cannot provide work,” says NASAWU Vice President Epson Kavekuire who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the retrenched staff. He expressed his satisfaction with the manner in which the process was concluded.

Etosha Fishing still operates one vessel, the Iona, which was converted to a refrigerated seawater vessel (RSW) at a substantial cost in 2018 to be able to fish in local waters, landing horse mackerel fresh for processing at its cannery in Walvis Bay. Etosha Fishing operates the oldest cannery in Namibia and currently employs 44 permanents and close to 550 seasonal staff at its cannery. The mainstay of its business over the years has been the canning of pilchards for leading brands such as Lucky Star and Glenryck SA.

In response to Namibia’s dwindling pilchard resource, Etosha Fishing has since 2010 been importing frozen pilchards for processing on local soil in order to sustain its operations and jobs at its cannery in Walvis Bay. Etosha Fishing also spearheaded value addition to horse mackerel when in 2013 when it became the first company to successfully can locally caught horse mackerel under its own product range called EFUTA Maasbanker. Going from strength to strength, the EFUTA brand celebrated its 5th anniversary in December 2018, with nearly 5 million cans sold annually.

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