Hooked on Namibia: recreational angling, small-scale fisheries and the blue economy

By Usman Khan and Nina Rivers

Recreational angling (defined here as fishing that is not the individual’s main source of food and is not generally sold) is a significant industry in Namibia, with thousands of anglers visiting every year to take part in either rock-and-surf or ski-boat angling. Recreational angling provides a myriad of economic, social, and ecological benefits to society.

Namibia’s government is currently developing its Blue Economy Policy, which will guide the sustainable use and management of marine resources within Namibia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area of the ocean extending 200 nautical miles beyond a nation’s territorial waters over which that country has jurisdiction.

Anglers along Namibia’s coastline (Photo: Usman Khan)  

Students from the University of Namibia (UNAM) supported by the Namibia Nature Foundation carried out a survey with recreational anglers to find out how much they invest in their sport. Their research findings were recently published in a report  showing that recreational angling generates an estimated N$1 billion Namibian dollars (£40 million) worth of expenditure annually, largely spent on accommodation, groceries, tackle, and restaurants. This is a substantial amount and is equivalent to three percent of Namibia’s commercial fishing sector value.

Recreational fishers need fishing permits to fish and these cost N$14 per month. This price has remained unchanged since the establishment of permits in 2001, despite the need to increase revenue to cover administrative costs. During the survey, data collectors asked anglers the maximum monthly price they would be willing to pay for a permit with fisheries in its current state. Anglers are willing to pay slightly higher permit fees, with average figures of N$37 and N$109 for Namibians and foreigners respectively. These figures can provide guidance to policymakers when it comes to any future fee restructuring.


In Namibia, the Marine Resources Act (27 of 2000) which is the country’s key legal framework for fisheries, mainly recognises commercial and recreational fishing activities. The discussion around defining  SSFs in Namibia is an emerging one and it was not so long ago that there was a widely held belief that no subsistence anglers operated along Namibia’s coastline.

Yet, there do exist those who would be considered subsistence fishers. These fishers are typically characterised as harvesting resources for income or for food; harvesting resources locally; using low-technology gear; and having low cash incomes. As a group, they are not formally recognised and operate through legislation relating to the recreational sector. As such, any amendments to regulations relating to recreational angling will impact subsistence anglers. This would include permit price revisions, which would adversely affect this group.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), through support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), developed its National Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries 2022-2026 (NPOA-SSF). A definition for SSFs, which was developed in 2022, needs further articulation and formalisation to capture the complexities highlighted above. Additionally, the emergence of anglers who operate at the nexus of “food and fun” needs to be recognised: over 25 percent of respondents reported an annual income of under N$50,000 (£2,000).


Marine and coastal tourism is a mainstay of Namibia’s economy. Recreational angling could continue to be promoted, provided that local fishing communities’ access to marine resources are not constrained. In the context of limited government budget support for marine conservation, increasing revenue through increases in the price of permit fees for the recreational fisheries sector would be considered a low-hanging fruit. Fisheries managers should also carefully value the basic interests of small-scale fishers, balanced against those of relatively more well-off resident and non-resident anglers.

From the Hub side, the need to formally recognise SSF has been previously discussed by UNAM researchers. The critical issue of formal recognition of the SSF is also currently being tackled by Hub researcher Tapiwa Warikandwa, University of Namibia (Namibia) who is assessing measures that can be adopted to ensure socio-economic rights and interests of SSFs are recognised. Hub early-career researchers Aphiwe Moshani, University of Cape Town (South Africa) and Natanah Gusha, University of Namibia (Namibia) and Rhodes University (South Africa) are also currently leading a co-authored academic paper on the complexities and challenges of trying to define and distinguish between SSF and recreational fishers that is expected to be finalised in December 2024.

Related SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Life below water