Fishing Industry and it’s fishes future? (2017)

From the beginning of the 1990’s, with the anticipation of the coming changes to our overall society, a considerable degree of uncertainty as to future developments led to confusion in so many government departments. The department of Marine and Coastal Management, was no exception, particularly as the rights distribution was far too narrow, let alone the fact that the holders were 95% white. The Industry participants and the then present governing party were very conscious of these facts and agreed to form a forum consisting of representatives from all facets of industry, unions, scientists, conservationists, recreationals, and even illegal fishers, chaired by an ANC representative.

The writer at the time represented commercial and recreational interests from KwaZulu Natal, and proposed that existing rights holders should give up a negotiated proportion of their rights, (between 10 and 20%), to ensure a broadening of rights holders, particularly to Qualifying PDPs. The proposal met with general approval and during the following months, the committee thrashed out a proposal, simultaneously considering and producing a white paper revising existing legislation that became The Marine Living Resources Act of 1998. However, two of the three biggest Companies, reneged on the deal at the last minute, stating that they preferred to see how matters would pan out. Their decisions were poorly perceived in official circles, and, as a result thereof, trust between Industry and Branch Fisheries, now part of Agriculture, got off to a bad start, which persists to this day.

Furthermore, all the negatives that have decimated the ANC bureaucracy are to be found there. They include Corruption, Nepotism, Cadre Appointee Incompetence, Political Interference in Rights Allocation, Political Expediency in all matters, and the perils of so-called Radical Economic Transformation. In the last instance, the perceived need is political imagination, as the Industry is probably the second most transformed after the Taxi Industry. To complicate matters further, some years ago the department was split in two with the maritime environmental section being transferred to the Department of Environment for no apparent logical reasons!

As to the future of Fisheries in the current Political Environment, the enigma that is Cyril Ramaphosa, ‘the frequently oblivious’, prevails. In the same way, so does the uncertainty of both his will and ability to effect the drastic changes needed to return the ANC Government of our country back onto a road of efficiency and integrity, a tall order by any measure! In the circumstances, all one can project is what should happen to the Department of Fisheries. Then one can only hope that the new political environment will be in that direction, but, like everything else in our hoped for resurrection, it will take time!

· The Commercial Fishing Industry and Recreational Fishing activities are controlled by a sub section of the Department of Agriculture. Rock and Surf Anglers number approximately 800,000 though only some 300,000 licences are issued annually. This figure includes some 30,000 boat anglers, whose craft are valued at some four billion Rand. Estimated economic outflow from the sport is some two billion Rand per year, whilst the potential for tourism growth in the sector is enormous.

South Africa’s Commercial Fisheries land around 600,000 tons of fish per annum with an approximate unprocessed value of six billion Rand. There are over twenty sectors exploited by some 3000 rights holders operating around 2000 vessels. The industry supports approximately 50,000 direct jobs and the livelihoods of 250,000 people, plus supporting industry employment of between 100 and 200,000 jobs.

· Surely, such a major natural resource justifies its own Ministry, and one hopes revised government structures will allow for this in the future.

· One also hopes that the appointed minister will have an understanding of the oceans, and what is in them. Then, most importantly, the director general must have both maritime and management experience.

· The Department should be divided into five divisions, each with a separate DDG or manager: a) General resource and financial management. b) Compliance. c) Fishing Rights Allocation Process. d) Scientific and Environmental Division. e) Mari Culture.

· In line with Government policy to empower coastal community members individually, a practical plan of action must be developed whereby they are granted individual rights of sufficient size that ensures them a positive annual income. One doubts that the current model is workable other than in the case of isolated communities such as Hondeklipbaai. Even there, the negative of such required cooperative action, and the control of illegal fishing by both the rights holders and those without rights, brings the model into question.

Then the relevant Inshore Resources need to be considered, in particular whether additional commercial exploitation in addition to individual rights will be granted. Ideally this would not be the case. However, where considerable capital investment by the current right’s holder exists, it will morally and pragmatically not be possible to cancel such directly.

Will trap and ringnet fishing for WCRL be considered separately with a split quota? Squid will probably rank as offshore, and Abalone will also have to be carefully re-evaluated. Therefore, inshore resources available for individual rights would be seaweed, mud and sand prawns, bloodworm, tapeworm, white mussels, black mussels, redbait, oysters, WCRL inside the 50 metres depth contour, south and east coast inshore RL, Octopus inside 20 metres, and KwaZulu Natal Beach Seine Sardine.

A multi-species licence could be considered under this section. It should be specifically linked to a restaurant/hotel in isolated locations, but never in a built up area where it would encourage illegal activity. In addition, some product, in the form of Rock Lobster and Abalone, should be restricted for local consumption only, which is a necessity for local and international tourists.

All commercial licences under this section, including Ski-boats, should all be limited to fixed locations with no roaming permitted.

· Offshore Resources will be the following: Trawled Deepwater Hake, Kingklip, and Bycatch., Trawled Shallow water Hake, Sole, and Bycatch, Trawled Midwater Pelagics, Trap caught WCRL beyond the 30 metres depth contour, Deepwater South Coast Lobster, Octopus outside 20 metres, Squid, East Coast Crustaceans, Small Pelagics (Purse Seine), Bait Pelagics (Sardine), and Large Pelagics.

· In terms of the relevant legislation, the Consultative Advisory Forum shall be reconstituted consisting of six nominated independent experts who have no current connection to the Fishing Industry or Government in any form. However, one member shall be a scientist and one member must have a comprehensive knowledge of recreational fishing activities. In addition, one representative of the Department shall participate, but shall not have a vote. All the following matters, but not necessarily limited to same, regarding fishing rights, quotas, catch limitations and regulations, exploitation methodology, etc., shall be considered by the forum, whose decision in respect thereof shall be conveyed to the Minister for implementation. However, the Minister shall have the right of veto, at which point CAF can require their submission to be considered by the Cabinet/Fisheries Oversight Committee. Any decision given by CAF shall preferably have been adopted unanimously, but can be accepted by the chairman, providing the vote in favour is a minimum of four.

· Subject to oversight by the relevant parties, the above would be the basis of an ideal situation for a new ministry, though one fears that it might not be attainable in the short term. But one must try for the stars! All resource regulations would need to be revisited and revised. For instance, commercial line boats and inshore rock lobster fishing craft must be allocated a single location from which to depart and return to offload their catch. This is an important factor in returning inshore resources to sustainable exploitation levels and full compliance control.

Above all, compliance must become effective to allow for meaningful management, and to minimise poaching and illegal fishing of all types. Synergistic regulations must be developed to accommodate adequately managed vessel crewing within the concept of individual rights. Regulations must, at the very least, not discourage consolidation and cooperative activity, but must be strictly limited to combined active rights, not phantom rights generating reward only for the holder. Broader cooperative activities, as opposed to directed co-op development, must be the sole responsibility of the rights holders, not of the Department.

· Recent remarks by government representatives, including ministers, such as:

“In conjunction to adhering to the provisions of the MLRA pertaining to sustainability, it is important that decision making in the determination of the TAC/E respect the provisions of the United Nations 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in taking management action based on the best available information, be it scientific, socio-ecological or socio-economic AND

“It should be noted that the fisheries sector is one of the least transformed economic sectors in the country comparatively. The Department is working tirelessly to drive this transformation process in a manner that is not disruptive to the competitiveness of the sector, but also ensuring that this transformation is as inclusive as possible. .” By Ministry Spokesperson for DAFF, AND

Statement by Minister Senzeni Zokwana on August 3rd, responding publicly to the World Wide Fund for Nature approach to the courts over the incorrectly determined WCRL Quota, “That the Industry was still dominated by whites and foreign companies “ and that this required the Department “to move at great speed in maximising entrance of PDPs and Communities to the fishing business as part of deepening diversity and Economic Transformation.”

are all simply absolutely untrue!

Firstly UNCLOS does not in any way say or mean any such approach departing from the principle of “SUSTAINABILITY” for the exploitation of any resource. It is an example of trying to put a context on words simply to suit yourself a la Zuma’s ANC! After all sustainability is the very foundation of the Law of the SEA in terms of the usage of the Oceans munificence as a source of food for this planet’s ever-increasing population. Secondly, the second statement, and the third by the Minister himself, is at total odds with the actual facts. From the start, the fishing industry led the pack when it came to BEE and black ownership. Virtually every big and medium-size company diversified its shareholding towards black ownership in a very short space of time. In fact, in respect of the four largest companies in the industry, three are already black-owned and the fourth is busy with negotiations towards those ends.

By far the larger proportion of medium-size companies and SSMEs are also black owned or controlled, and probably 90% of small-scale fishing rights are held by PDPs. One would not be surprised to find that between 80% and 90% of fishing activities are controlled today by PDPs. The same unquestionably is the case with employee numbers. What actually is the Department and the Minister trying to do?

For the rest, presently the Department is the scene of utter chaos, especially in the field of Compliance and FRAP, let alone numerous court cases and enquiries due to corruption and incompetence. The Minister and his Department would be well advised to consider the rectification thereof, rather than making inane political statements.

References: WWF Report 2016. Compiled by John Duncan.

Recreational Economic Impact Study 2009. Compiled by Prof Marius Leibold.

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