By Donna Collins
THE Ryazanovka fishing trawler looks harmless from the outside. But dubbed the “killer boat” by a group of Walvis Bay marine life activists, the Russian vessel since it sailed into Namibian waters, has become a looming threat with intentions to capture and transport exotic marine mammals for Asia’s lucrative aquarium industry.
An estimated N$3 million dollar investment is being dangled by a Chinese company called Welwitschia Aquatic and Wildlife Scientific Research – causing environmentalists in the harbour town to be on red alert. The fate of the protected marine species hangs in the balance, pending a decision made by the Ministry Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR).
An action group called Namibians Against Plundering of our Seas which was formed a few weeks ago, staged a peaceful protest on Sunday at the Walvis Bay Yacht Club. Nearly 100 T-shirt wearing, placard waving lobbyists gathered at the water’s edge, in an effort to halt ruthless marine life capture or “slaughter” as some people believe. Their cries have not gone unheard, as their support grows daily around the country and worldwide.
Their plan to hand over a signed petition to the ship’s captain, was denied by Namibian Ports Authority Security Management on Wednesday, stating reasons that “industrial action, picketing and demonstration are not allowed in the port”.
Nonetheless, the movement is gaining traction through online petitions among others, with plans to hand over a written petition against the capture to the office of the MFMR tomorrow afternoon. Ultimately a petition will also find its way to the President’s Office.
Figures released state that the company has applied to the Government to catch 10 Orca whales, 500-1 000 Cape fur seals; 300-500 African penguins; 50-100 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins; 50-100 common bottlenose dolphins; and various sharks for transport to China.
Mention was also made, that the vessel which has been likened to a “rusted sea abattoir”, is not large enough to transport live whales, and that dolphins and sharks which are on the list – which will die in transit under these stressful and cramped conditions.
Walvis Bay environmentalists Leon Kuhn and Katja Glöditzsch who are heading the lobby group said they don’t believe the intentions are to fill up an aquarium, because when you look at the massive asking quotas, it indicates that they could be catching for slaughtering.
Alarm bells went off in May when the Ryazanovka was berthed in Luderitz and inspectors noticed it was rigged with whale trapping equipment. The 25-year-old Ryazanovka manned by a Chinese crew – entered Walvis Bay on September 18 where it berthed for several days and is now anchored in port waters.
If a license is granted, this will be the first operation of its kind where permission has been granted by Government for international operators to catch protected sea creatures, which might open the floodgates to an unstoppable trade. “The whole business appears sinister and shrouded in secrecy,” commented Golditzsch. ”It it is sub-standard for Namibia to be siding with such business dealings and we are going to do everything we can to stop these people from plundering our marine life.”
The marine life in question are protected under international law and any trade is subject to strict CITES regulation according to Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) who urges the full spectrum of authorities i.e. NamPort, Directorate of Maritime Affairs, Namibian Police, Ministry of Fisheries inspectors, to be vigilant over the actions and intentions of the company that has submitted this application, and the activities of the vessel Ryazanovka in Namibian waters.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015