The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Derek Klazen, and scientists say the horse mackerel species is under severe threat.

The industry has been warned about unsustainable catches of horse mackerel stock.

A scientist in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Graca D'Almeida, raised alarm at the annual industry address held at Walvis Bay.

Supported by Minister Derek Klazen, it was revealed that the size of horse mackerel has gotten smaller over the decades, while catches of the stock have become unsustainable.

"You can see that our catches are not sustainable. So if we continue like that, that graph will then tilt to the left, which is not good. And one thing that we have noticed scientifically about this stock, which is critically important, is the size of the population. You can see that from the 1970s and 1980s to, I believe, the 1990s and 1993, those were the data pulled for nearly three decades. You could see that we had a lot of fish in the population. The average size of the catches was around 28 to 29 centimetres, and then that has just been moving to the left, which is younger fish. Currently, the average size is about 20 to 20 centimetres. And if you look at the last graph of that, you see that blue indicates that 50% of the population is reproducing for the first time. It used to be around 20 to 28 centimetres, but in recent decades, it has dropped to around 17 to 18 centimetres."

Emphasising the scientists' concerns, Klazen said the horse mackerel species could face a fate similar to that of the pilchard industry, where a ban has been imposed since 2017.

"Our horse mackerel is under threat. Why have I expressed my worry about horse mackerel the way our pilchards went, our horse mackerel also, and I really feel for the horse mackerel industry? The freezer trawlers, the wet trawlers—I feel for you. The freezer trawlers stay out so long at sea. Imagine with fuel prices up how these people are struggling for 30 days at sea. Usually, they were out 12 days."

The pilchard industry, especially canning factories at Walvis Bay, collapsed after a noted depletion of pilchard stock. Factories like Etosha Fishing suffered over the years as they relied on imported fish from Morocco and other countries.

The company, with help from the ministry, has been revived by a drought-relieving horse mackerel quota allocation being processed in Etosha's canning factory.

Photo Credits
Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources


Renate Rengura