The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says when deciding on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, a full cost-benefit analysis needs to be done.
It said it still needs to consider a number of logistical issues, including the flight range of the drones; the quality and usefulness of drone pictures, the drones’ ability to provide GPS Global Positioning System coordinates positions, time stamps, cost implications as well as the drones’ ability to detect Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities at night.
Responding to New Era questions on possible methods to reduce the ministry’s carbon emissions, ministerial spokesperson, Uaripi Katjiukua, explained that the role drones could play in reducing the ministry’s carbon footprint still needs to be researched.
“At this stage, the ministry is busy investigating whether drones can be useful in carrying out its mandate of fisheries law enforcement more efficiently and effectively. The ministry’s monitoring, control and surveillance activities are aimed at combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing activities,” Katjiukua noted.
The fisheries ministry currently operates two fisheries patrol vessels and one research vessel. The Directorate of Maritime Affairs within the works and transport ministry is mandated to regulate issues pertaining to carbon footprint within the maritime sector.
“The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources’ vessels are amongst the latest of the fleet operating in the Namibian waters and thus utilise the latest technology in relation to cleaner fuel usage. The ministry will continue to monitor advancement and developments in technologies aimed at reducing its carbon footprint,” Katjiukua stated.
In executing its mandate, the ministry’s two patrol vessels are used for conducting sea patrol missions in Namibia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Katjiukua explained the purpose is to board all fishing vessels operating in the EEZ, whether these are Namibian or foreign owned.
Said Katjiukua: “For each patrol mission, the vessel carries fisheries inspectors and if available (which is the case most of the time) other law enforcement officers such as the Namibian Police water wing and from the Namibian Navy. These law enforcement officers board vessels to inspect them for compliance to legislation and if any vessel is found to be in non-compliance, the vessel could be ordered to be escorted to the nearest port for further investigation and prosecution (if found guilty in contravening the law)”.
In addition, the two fixed wing airplanes are used for conducting air surveillance from south to north on the length of the EEZ or to any point of the EEZ as the plane may be directed. The EEZ is about 370km (200 nautical miles) from the Namibian coast. The plane carries one fisheries inspector who takes pictures of suspected illegal activities and reports these to the operations centre which can direct a patrol vessel, in the vicinity, to further investigate. The pictures further determine the type of action the inspectorate will take.
The ministry also operates a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which monitors the movement of all Namibian licensed vessels. It is a legal requirement for all vessels above 20 metres in length, to have active VMS, which automatically reports the position, speed and heading of the vessel to the VMS. The VMS is used to monitor compliance by Namibian vessels and is also equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify foreign vessels entering (whose AIS are on) as well as Radar imagery capabilities that can be utilised to identify dark vessels (those with their AIS switched off).
In 2019, Namibia pledged US$2.7 million to increase the fight against IUU fishing. IUU fishing undermines national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Estimates by the United States and the European Union show that illegal fishing accounts for nearly US$23 billion worth of seafood annually.