Windhoek - A Namibian fishing company suing government for not having received additional horse mackerel quotas which were allocated to other firms received a symbolic victory when the court ruled the allocation was unlawful and irregular.

Namsov Fishing Enterprises, a subsidiary of the publicly listed company Bidvest Namibia, sued the Fisheries Ministry for allocating additional horse mackerel quotas in July to companies that were not right holders for horse mackerel.

“The allocation of quotas to Nation Fishing Corporation, Namibia Pelagic & Hake Longlining Association and the Small Pelagic Fishing Association is unlawful and irregular, but is not set aside,” Judge Shafimana Ueitele ruled in the Windhoek High Court on Wednesday.

Arguments were heard in the court in November and Ueitele reserved judgment in the matter.

Namsov, its subsidiary Emeritus Fishing and a third company Atlantic Harvesters had asked for an increased quota, but received only half of the metric tons they requested.

The total allowable catches for 2014 for horse mackerel is 350 000 metric tons.

Namsov received 38 636 tons at the start of the fishing season.

Namsov asked for 13 337 metric tons more; Emeritus Fishing requested 2 238 additional tons and Atlantic Harvesters wanted 2 555 tons more.

According to court documents, the Fisheries Ministry informed the three companies in early July that their request was granted.

On 22 July, the ministry however allocated them only about half the additional quota.

Namsov received 5,908 tons, Emeritus Fishing approximately 1 000 tons and Atlantic Harvesters an additional quota of 1 110 tons.

The ministry in the same month granted companies that did not have a fishing right for horse mackerel, quotas to catch horse mackerel.

These companies were National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), a State-owned company which received 10,000 tons, the Small Pelagic Association (8,000 tons), Namibian Large Pelagic & Hake Longlining Association (1,000 tons) and the Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust (2,000 tons).

The allocation was not compliant with the law regulating the fishing sector, the lawyers of the three aggrieved fishing companies argued.

These quota recipients are believed to have in the meantime nearly completed their quotas.

Namsov and the other two applicants cannot claim the quotas back.

Tuesday's ruling however gives them the possibility to consider suing the Fisheries Ministry for damages because the expected additional quotas were given to non-right holders.

In August, a subsidiary of Namsov, Tracharus Fishing had to lay off 120 workers after the Fisheries Ministry cut Namsov's quota, the company claimed.

Namibia's fisheries industry is the second-largest sector in the country's economy after mining. The fishing sector contributes about N$4 billion to the economy through export earnings, mostly to Spain.

Sapa