November 29, 2020

Namibian Fishery Second in Africa to be Certified Sustainable

MSC certification opens door to more European markets, following strenuous conservation efforts.

The Namibia hake trawl and longline fishery has become the first fishery in Namibia, and the second in Africa, to meet the globally recognised standard for sustainable fishing set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an environmental not for profit.

The certification recognises progress made by the Namibian government and fishing industry in rebuilding hake stocks [1], which in the past were decimated by overfishing by foreign fleets [2]. To be MSC certified, a fishery must show the fish stock is healthy, that it minimises its impact on the environment and has effective management in place [3].

A global surge in consumer interest in sustainably sourced products means demand is outpacing supply. MSC certification will ensure the fishery can continue to export to markets in Southern Europe and will help it expand into retail markets in Northern Europe. Supermarkets and brands in these markets often prefer the fish and seafood they stock to be MSC-certified.

Fishing is the third largest sector of Namibia’s economy, with hake making up the majority of the sector and directly employing more than 10,000 people. The bulk of hake industry jobs go to women, who clean, fillet and pack the fish for export in factories around the ports where the hake is landed. MSC certification is expected to help the sector grow, benefiting the economy, communities and creating more jobs.

“As custodians of our natural resources, it is our responsibility to manage Namibia’s fisheries in a way that ensures the long-term health and biodiversity of the oceans, and at the same time allows our fishing industry to maximise the value of the resource for the current and future generations of the Namibian people in line with the provisions of article 95(l) of the Namibian constitution. We have worked hard to rebuild hake stocks that were historically overfished. MSC certification of the Namibian Hake is an independent endorsement that our efforts are working, and a signal to retailers, brands and fish lovers around the world that the Namibian Hake is sustainable and it is here to stay.”

Dr. A Kawana Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Government of Namibia

“Demand for sustainable hake is growing, especially in Europe. Having MSC certification will help the Namibian Hake industry stay competitive and meet demand in our existing markets, as well as expand into new markets where retailers and brands preferentially stock MSC certified fish to meet their consumers’ expectations. Now we have certification, we hope to see our numbers grow, benefiting Namibians, communities, the economy and of course, the oceans.”

Peter Pahl, Chair of the Namibian Hake Fishing Association

Nomad Foods, which owns the Birdseye, Findus and Iglo brands and has committed to source 100% of its fish and seafood from sustainable sources by the end of 2025, welcomed the certification.

“As the world’s largest buyer of certified wild-caught white fish, and a proud co-founder of the MSC, we have a key role to play in encouraging fisheries to continuously improve their practices to ensure the health of fish stocks, vulnerable species and ocean habitats. This requires a long-term view and collaboration across the supply chain. With more than 95% of our raw material already externally certified, we are increasing our focus on fish species that make up the remainder of our portfolio, including Namibian Hake. We have supported the Namibia hake trawl and longline fishery on its certification journey for a number of years and expect to be one of the first companies to bring products made from MSC certified Namibian Hake to European consumers.”

Stefan Descheemaeker, CEO, Nomad Foods

The Namibian Hake fishery, which operates on a much larger scale than many fisheries in the Global South, will add up to 160,000 tonnes of sustainable hake into the supply chain.

“The Namibian hake fishery’s achievements are a great example of how the MSC programme works in partnership with governments, scientists and the industry to drive change. Around 60% of all seafood is caught in the Global South, where it is a vital source of protein. Interest and engagement in our programme has been growing sharply across emerging economies. We want to work with more fisheries and governments in the region and hope that more will be encouraged by the Namibian hake’s success.”

Michael Marriott, MSC Program Manager: Africa, Middle East and South Asia

Overfishing in Africa

More than a third of fish stocks around the world are overfished, yet sustainable fisheries are more productive and resilient to change according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The World Bank has estimated [5] that the amount of fishing in African waters would need to be reduced by over 50 percent in order to reach an equilibrium that protects both fish stocks and profits.

The Marine Stewardship Council works with fisheries around the world to combat overfishing, including the South African Hake fishery – which became the first fishery in Africa to achieve MSC certification in 2004.

Sustainable hake recipes

Why not try out some of MSC’s delicious, certified sustainable hake recipes today – from traditional Namibian hake ‘potjie’ (stew) and hake fried in ‘bokkom’ butter, to grilled hake with lentil herbs and hake ‘viskoekies’ (fish cakes). Discover more interesting facts and recipes at this Foodie’s Guide to Sustainable Hake.