Working in a transdisciplinary team to understand climate vulnerability on recreational fishing in Namibia 

By Angelika Veii and Sandy Nghipangelwa

Recreational anglers along the Namibian coast. PHOTO: ANGELIKA VEII

The Namibian coast is renowned for its excellent angling opportunities, particularly in the central and northern coastal regions. Living in Henties Bay for the past two years, one can always tell when it’s holiday time as the town buzzes with activity from hundreds of local and foreign anglers filling up their cars, mounted with fishing rods and buying food and bait. This little town, approximately 70km from Swakopmund, is home to Namibia’s vibrant shore angling sector which is the bread and butter of the majority of the town’s inhabitants. 

The problem

As popular as the recreational sector is and the livelihood opportunities it provides for coastal communities, the popularity of this fishery has reduced the fish resources and while these were well monitored and managed in the 1990s, they have been neglected in recent years. The poor management of the recreational fishery has placed additional pressure on the fish stocks, having a considerable impact on other users of the resource, including subsistence fishers who rely directly on the fish for their livelihoods. Most anglers will tell you “Daar is nie meer visse nie” or “There are no more fish to catch”. Climate change is also threatening fish stocks. For example, central and northern Namibia are recognised as an ocean warming hotspot and changes in temperature are having a marked impact on the distribution, movement patterns and life history of coastal top target fishery species such as kob.  

A way forward

Declining fish stocks is a complex problem and cannot be addressed in isolation. Coming up with solutions for sustainable utilisation of the recreational fish resources will require coordinated efforts from all scientists, fishermen and policy makers to better understand the issues and potential solutions. On the 23 – 31 March, the One Ocean Hub Namibian team, alongside the South African and UK teams, held a five-day workshop in Henties Bay to share our knowledge on the fisheries in Namibia. This was in the context of multiple uses of the marine shore-based resources and climate vulnerability. There were researchers from various disciplines including anthropology, law, fisheries, economics and environmental education.  

Working and being part of a transdisciplinary team provided us, as early career scientists, with the platform to learn from experts from different fields and broaden our research to be relevant across multiple disciplines. We learned that there is not a clear separation of users in the line fish sector of Namibia and all of them are assumed to be recreational anglers in the marine policies and legislation of Namibia. A clear separation is needed to be able to quantify the impacts of each user on the marine resources and develop a way forward in terms of equitable access to the resources by different users especially for women, youth and marginalised communities. This was in the context of ensuring that Namibia’s Blue Economy is informed by multiple values and knowledge systems. There is work being done for legal reforms to fully recognise the small-scale fisheries sector in Namibia and effectively support fair and equitable benefit-sharing from sustainable fisheries  

Additionally, from the social science research the women who make jewellery out of seashells have noticed a change in quality of shells and attribute it to a change in the marine environment. This was interesting as it tied into the climate change theme and contrasted the similar nature of problems experienced by multiple users of marine-shore resources. The anglers whom we work with have highlighted the same concern as the reason to why there are not as many fish as in the past. Our research aims to look at the influence of changing environmental conditions (potentially due to climate change) on the long-term growth of one of the target species in the recreational sector, West coast Steenbras and understanding its population structure using genetics and otolith(fish earbone) shape analysis. It was interesting to see how interrelated the social, fisheries and climate sciences are in the Namibian context. 

Steenbras otoliths (earstones) (left) and Silverkob otoliths (right), photo: Angelika Veii

Throughout the workshop, we received positive input with regards to our projects and had the opportunity to interact with experts from other countries and learn from their knowledge and experience. Additionally, we also gained insight on the possible research questions and gaps that need to be answered to better understand the recreational sector with specific reference to Silver Kob and West coast steenbras in Namibia.  

Recreational fishing is more than just a hobby but a lifestyle for anglers in Namibia. This was captured in a pilot survey conducted on the last day of the workshop to investigate the economic contributions of foreign/tourist anglers during their fishing trips in Namibia and to better understand shore angler behaviour and opinions towards angling regulations. The pilot survey was one of the highlights of the workshop as we got the opportunity to interact with anglers and gain hands on training on how to conduct a roving-creel beach survey and how to tackle issues that may arise during the survey. Key points learned were how to ask the questions and not impose your opinions to get results that are a true reflection of the anglers opinion from the social scientists and we got to see that smiling and small talk before conducting the survey actually helps and makes the angler more comfortable and open to conversation. 

Interviewing an angler during our pilot survey at Mile 8,
a popular fishing spot in Namibia (22.04.23) photo: Sandy Nghipangelwa

The workshop highlighted to us the interrelated uses of marine-shore resources by multiple groups of people and the vulnerability to climate change of these different groups. Most importantly, working in a transdisciplinary team enabled us to find solutions from different disciplines through sharing of information and skills. 

Some of the workshop members at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources
in Swakopmund, Namibia (31.03.23) photo: Dr. Georg Engelhard
About the authors: 

Sandy (Ndinehafo) Nghipangelwa is a Research assistant and Angelika Veii is a Research fellow under One Ocean Hub currently pursuing their Masters of Science at the University of Namibia. Sandy’s focus is on the population structure of West Coast steebras using otolith shape analysis and genetics while Angelika is looking at the long-term growth of West Coast steenbras using otolith chronology.