The fishery: Although this fishery is based on the same two hake species as the South African hake fishery, the past and recent history of Namibia has led to distinct differences in the exploitation and management of the resource. Extremely conservative management measures were put in place when Namibia achieved independence in 1990, as well as steps to try to promote a domestic processing sector. Turnover is of the order of US$ 150 million to US$ 250 million, based on a TAC of 180,000 tons in 2003. With some exceptions, quota holders are represented by the Namibian Hake Association. The main management measures in place are a TAC, individual quotas, gear regulations and area restrictions.

History and management perspectives: Over most of its history, the Namibian hake fishery was open to fishing by foreign fleets. Between 1964 and 1989, 10.7 million tons of hake are recorded to have been removed from Namibian waters, with a highest level of 820 000 tons in 1972. During the decade 1980 - 1990, under a more conservative management regime, the average recorded annual landing was 300 000 tons, but even so commercial catch rates showed a consistent recovery from the very low levels seen in 1978. This is indicative of a large resource with considerable productive potential. ICSEAF, an international organisation set up by the FAO to oversee the management of the fishery, recommended a conservative TAC of 248 000 tons for the 1990 season. However, this was not achieved because Namibia achieved independence in March 1990. Scientists involved in the management of the fishery on an advisory basis for ICSEAF were stunned by the conservativism of the initial TAC recommendation by the new government; 60 000 tons for the 1990 season, climbing to 150 000 tons in 1996, and 180,000 tons in 2003.

OLRAC's involvement: OLRAC has been involved in the scientific management of the resource since 1995. Its main role has been to investigate the recommendations of Namibian scientists which are based on absolute abundance estimates derived from cruises of a Norwegian research vessel, the 'Dr Fridtjof Nansen'. Using a formula, TAC = 20% of fishable biomass, their recommendations have consistently called for a reduction in the TAC to a level of between 50 000 and 75 000 tons. OLRAC's work in this regard has focussed on the precision and accuracy of the swept area surveys, particularly;
  • the accuracy of the acoustic correction to the trawl based hake density estimates
  • the shape of the trawl and the assumption of a rectangular opening of the net
  • the definition of fishable biomass based on sizes larger than 36 cm rather than the 20 cm used in South Africa
  • fish missed in water shallower than 100 metres and deeper than 650 metres
  • fish escapement in the front of the net
  • implications of changes to the research gear in 1992?
OLRAC has advised that whilst the surveys may provide a reliable relative abundance estimate, use of the absolute abundance estimate from the research cruises is unwise.

OLRAC has investigated trends in commercial catch rates prior to and after independence, and has shown that the extremely low TAC's since independence sparked a large increase in hake abundance.

All of OLRAC's research has been submitted in writing and verbally to meetings of the Namibian Fisheries Advisory Committee. The result has been that the crippling TAC reductions proposed by some of the scientists have not been implemented.

Cooperative work between OLRAC and the Namibian government research agency at Swakopmund is proceeding in an attempt to understand the trends in commercial catch rates, the discrepancy between the approaches being used by the two research groups, and the management implications.