Engaged with the fishing sector since 1992
Kuiseb Fishing Enterprises is a privately-owned company located on Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast of Namibia, an area known for many years as the industrial and fishing hub of the country of 2.2 million inhabitants.
In a very competitive marketplace, Kuiseb Fishing has established itself as one of the premier companies serving the southeastern African region during its time in operation. An experienced management team and dedicated employees has made the enterprise exceptionally successful. There are other regions that also boast strong fishing capabilities when it comes to catching crayfish and tuna, but certainly not on the same level as what is recognized at Walvis Bay.
As a fishing rights-holder, Kuiseb Fishing Enterprise (Pty) Ltd is a subsidiary of Naras Investment, a fully-owned Namibian company and a shareholder of Naras Investment Business Centre (Pty) Ltd. KFE is the sole owner of Kuiseb Food Processors (Pty) Ltd, and of Kuiseb Fish Traders (Pty) Ltd, a wholesale and retail trader, a sole owner of KFE Marine Farming (Pty) Ltd, a sea and shore based salt water fish farming operation and also KFE Aqua Farming (Pty) Ltd, a fresh water (inland) fish farming operation.
KFE has been engaged with the fishing sector since 1992, and has acknowledged the possible limitation to the fishing stock, and in this respect the company considered being its primary obligation to undertake research in order to expand the fishing industry into related activities for the purpose of ensuring food security and sustainable economic development.
Kuiseb Fishing General Manager Gerhard Schneitman joined the company in 2003 and it is he who leads the team of about 50 employees on a daily basis. He made quite a remarkable career transition from dry land to the sea.
“Before I came here I spent 28 years in banking,” he reveals.
A concern for fishing companies in Namibia has been dwindling stock in the Atlantic. Much of that problem can be attributed to having too many enterprises in one area as well as having to deal with illegal fishing vessels in the region.
“What we did in the past is we limited the number of trawlers and imposed heavy penalties for dumping,” Schneitman says. “If you catch outside your species you have to leave the area. All this is closely monitored by the government ministry and the navy.”
The mandating of limited areas for fishing – and respecting breeding grounds – became paramount in an effort to allow certain fish species the opportunity to restock. Failing to do so would have crippled the industry.
“About five years ago we reduced our total allowable catch for Namibia,” Schneitman continues. “Because the stock has increased, the allowable catch has also increased, but we are not to the point where we were in the 1980s and 90s. We are at about 55% of the old stock tax figures that we had back then.”
Limiting stock quotas and the number of vessels on the sea has resulted in a tremendous positive rebound for the industry. It’s crucial everyone plays by the same rules or shortages could easily happen again. If all companies play by the rules, Schneitman is convinced all who are directly involved in the industry can come away with profitable results. Additionally, there has been a proactive push to limit the number of newcomers to the region. While Walvis Bay is certainly a top-notch fishing destination, it’s widely believed that it is already maximized when it comes to fishing companies that are allowed to work there.
“We have monthly meetings, discussing our catches and how we pack,” Schneitman states. “The prices are not controlled, but everything is a more uniform product on the market. We try to enhance our brand and promote the quality of our fishing region.”
Fisheries observers are on the trawlers 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure proper procedures are followed and that accurate fish counts are kept. But they are also onboard to keep watch that there are no illegal fishing trawlers patrolling the waters, unlawfully attempting to steal what rightfully belongs to the licensed companies. In total there are 11 licensed fishing trawlers in the Walvis Bay area, including two that are owned by Kuiseb Fishing. Six others are from nearby fishing companies, along with two from Russia and one from Korea.
“I think the government is doing quite a tremendous job in protecting the natural resource, but there’s always the chance of risk that somebody can come in,” Schneitman mentions. “All legitimate vessels must have the proper monitoring equipment on board, which is a pre-requirement before licensing.”
Horse Mackerel Fish Soup
Smoked Horse Mackerel
Kelgo Organic Fertilizer
Wet fish (Horse mackerel, Reds, Angel and Snoek)
In the past, about 90 per cent of Kuiseb’s products went to exporting markets, with about 10 per cent staying in Namibia. However, due to new legislation, Schneitman says the company is now forced to supply Namibia with 30 per cent of the entire catch and 70 per cent can be allocated for export, mostly to other African nations. Exorbitant transport costs rule out exporting to the European market.
Kuiseb also makes a dried powder soup from some of the fish stocks the company collects, which they then sell to the retail market.
“From time to time we try something new,” Schneitman continues. “We have tried canning, but it wasn’t successful because the bones are very hard. The markets in Africa and Namibia are so vastly different so it’s quite difficult to service the customers. Namibia wants products that are not so salty.”
Most of the products are sold as sea frozen, with a lot repackaged in smaller portions for housewives and smaller income groups.
Future plans will include increasing capacity of the mussel operation and to enlarge the soup and repacking factories.
“We are always looking to diversify our income into other sectors as much as possible,” Schneitman remarks. He also says that the size of Kuiseb Fishing is ideal for maximizing competitiveness.
“At this point in time we are not the biggest, but being relatively small allows us flexibility that other companies don’t have,” he notes. “We put a lot of our resources into development and especially new products; trying new things; new packaging. I think that’s an advantage we have over bigger companies who find it difficult to deviate from the mainstream.”
It’s that flexibility and commitment to excellence which has elevated Kuiseb Fishing Enterprises into a very successful company, with bigger and better things still to come.