An overview of the living marine resources of Namibia

  • DC Boyer National Marine Information and Research Centre, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, P.O. Box 912, Swakopmund, Namibia
  • I Hampton 30 Jeffcoat Avenue, Bergvliet 7945, South Africa
Keywords: Benguela, exploitation, fisheries, management, marine resources, Namibia


This paper gives an overview of the main living marine resources of Namibia. It focuses on the scientific research conducted during the past decade as input to the management of these resources. The distribution and habitats of the most important harvested species and the main seabird populations are briefly described and discussed. The life histories of the major exploited species are summarized, with emphasis on spatial and temporal spawning patterns, dispersal of early life stages, migration patterns of recruits and adults, and diet, the latter particularly as it relates to potential competition between species. A number of commercially important species, such as the hake Merluccius capensis and M. paradoxus, deep-sea red crab Chaceon maritae, West Coast rock lobster Jasus lalandii, skipjack tuna Katsuwonus pelamis, southern albacore Thunnus alalunga and to a lesser extent Cape horse mackerel Trachurus capensis, southern African sardine Sardinops sagax and Cape anchovy Engraulis capensis, are distributed across national boundaries, requiring regional cooperation in research and management. The history and current status of the major fisheries is discussed. Over the past 30–40 years total annual catches have declined from a peak of around 2 million tons in the late 1960s to less than a million tons in the 1990s. This decline has been due, mainly, to a collapse in the sardine stock in the late 1960s and 1970s, and a reduction in the catches of hake and horse mackerel under a conservative management strategy in the past decade. Changes in the abundance and distribution of commercially important species, as determined by acoustic and trawl surveys and catch-based analytical methods, are presented. The effect of major environmental anomalies on the distribution and abundance of the resources in recent years is discussed. The most dramatic anomaly in recent years was the wide-scale advection of low-oxygen water into the northern Benguela from the Angola Dome in 1994, and the subsequent Benguela Niño of 1995, which appear to have severely impacted the Namibian sardine population and many other resources. The present socio-economic value of the Namibian fishing industry is given together with the broad policy, legislation and formal structures for managing the living marine resources.

Keywords: Benguela, exploitation, fisheries, management, marine resources, Namibia

African Journal of Marine Science 2001, 23: 5–35

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X