Uncertainty over fishery observer levies
WINDHOEK – The Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) is uncertain whether or not it will receive an annual increase in its levy for trawlers to make it self-sustaining.
Fisheries observer levies are the lifeblood sustaining the operations of the FOA accrued from fishing vessels for each day spent at sea. Fishery observer levies are paid into the Fisheries Observer Fund (FOF) from which the operational funding for the agency’s operations is derived. An investigation launched last year to determine the dire state of funding of the Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) will determine whether the agency will receive an annual increase in its levy or not. The investigation follows the FAO chairperson Ulitala Hiveluah’s plea in the agency’s annual report for the year ended 31 March 2012 that the agency needs an average annual increase of 20 percent in the fisheries observer levy, until such time that its operations are fully funded by the levy.
It was noted that the fisheries observer levy currently only covers 66 percent of the FOA’s revenue, leaving the deficit to be covered by the government. “The current state of funding of the FOA needs to be addressed. This can only be achieved through an average annual increase of 20 percent in the fisheries observer levy until such time that the operations of the FOA are fully funded by the levy,” Hiveluah noted, adding that the current level of funding does not enable the FOA to fully meet its objectives.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, the CEO of FOA, Hafeni Mungungu confirmed that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources conducted an investigation last year to look into the state of funding for the agency. “The investigation was conducted and completed last year. The board met the Minister of Fisheries (Bernhard Esau) four weeks ago and the minister agreed that the recommendations from the investigation will be dealt with during this financial year. As to what and when exactly that will be done, you have to find out from the ministry,” Mungungu explained without revealing the findings of the investigation.
When reached for comment fisheries and marine resources minister Esau also declined to divulge the findings of the investigation, but confirmed the investigation has been completed. He also confirmed that the FOA is facing a deficit due to inadequate funding. “Money was not enough, so the balance was sourced from state funding. This agency was supposed to be self-reliant way back. But due to cost factors such as fuel and operational costs, which are not in control of the agency, it has prolonged that vision of self-reliance,” Esau said. He further said the recommendations from the investigation on the issues of funding for the agency would be addressed during the current financial year.
When he motivated the fisheries budget before its approval Esau emphasised the importance of Marine and Inland Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) under which the FOA falls. Under the MCS programme, the government allocated an amount of N$145.5 million for the 2014/15 financial year. The FOA is tasked with monitoring the fishing sector’s compliance to legislation, and regularly sends observers along on commercial fishing trips to monitor this, as well as to collect relevant scientific data. The agency’s annual report for 2011/2012 indicates its revenues amounted to N$32.9 million, a slight increase from the previous year’s N$27.6 million. According to the same report, the FOF managed to raise N$21.6 million, leaving the fisheries ministry to cough-up an additional N$11.3 million. In the fiscal year 2010/2011, government’s contribution amounted to N$6.7 million, compared to the industry’s N$20.9 million.
By Albertina Nakale