The search for understanding. A lifetime of research on our marine resources (2019)

West Coast Crayfish Suicide

I guess it all started in 1951, my first year at high school in Grahamstown, when my father, apparently giving in to the son’s love of fishing which was to degree a chip off the old block, decided he’d better teach me boating. He did this, I now realise with the hindsight of my knowledge today, by buying as unsuitable a craft that you can imagine. It was 40 foot long with only an 8-foot beam, powered by twin petrol engine hundred horsepower Meadows, and was in fact a partially converted rather old seaplane tender. At full throttle, when you could hear the petrol gurgling out of its two 25 gallon petrol tanks, it ploughed through the water leaving an impressive wake at a speed of between 10 and 12 knots. My father never got the hang of handling it, but he did manage to teach me to reach a moderate level of ability. On the very first trip of the Christmas holidays, we proceeded down to Macassar where we caught a number of small Kob, and I landed my first big one of somewhere between 40 and 60 lbs.

Large Catch of Inshore Prawn

We never did weigh it, because, on arriving back in Gordons Bay harbour, a very distinguished gentleman on the quayside asked who caught that fish, and on hearing that it was his son, asked my father what he wanted for it. My father, with, he admitted afterwards, no idea what it was worth, said one pound, which I subsequently learnt was about double its true value, but was immediately tendered. At the first opportunity, I asked him who got the money to which he replied 50/50, half for the fuel and the boat and half for you. The die for my future was cast that day!

I have been attracted to the sea, drawn and almost hypnotized by it from the earliest age I can remember. As a
result, it was always my dream to work on it, in it, or, at the very least, with it. This has not changed over the
last 70 years, though this opportunity is now steadily slipping away, as I near my twelfth bonus year after my
allotted three score plus ten! In addition, for most of my working years it has been, in one way or the other, the
source of my income. It is truly a blessing, when you can earn your daily bread in the environment about
which you are passionate. Certainly, the sea and its Marine Resources have been my passion and my mistress
for my whole life!

For this reason, I have spent sixty years both exploiting and studying the remarkable Marine resources that abound off our coastline, and on our adjacent continental shelf. These resources, available to our fishing industry, are comparable with many of the best on this planet. Unfortunately, to my great concern and regret, I have watched their management slowly deteriorating, never more so than over the last two decades.

South Africans of all race groups are largely outdoors people in their leisure time. Therefore, one cannot over-emphasize the importance of our inshore natural resources to our own leisure anglers, the local tourist, let alone the overseas travelers whom we wish to attract to our wonderful land. Then again, our coastal dwellers have exploited them from the times of the Khoisan centuries ago, right up to the current communities, who unquestionably have a right to seek sustenance and a living they offer on their doorstep. After our minerals, our next most important natural resources are those along and off our coastline.

To a degree, they were well managed in the past within the principle of sustainable exploitation. Oh yes, before 1994 the powers to be certainly restricted access to them in an entirely unacceptable manner, as was so common in that era in respect of so many rights. However, after the first decade of developing democracy, the ANC National Government’s interest in Marine resources more or less waned, to the extent that the management of fisheries inexplicably split into two separate departments. What should have happened was the creation of a separate Ministry for both its parts. After all, this Industry and its resources represent an ideal example of all that our country needs towards steady expansion of the economy, jobs, foreign earnings, and even tourism.

Today, I regret to say that Branch Fisheries must lead the pack as the most poorly run of all government departments. The litany of incorrect management decisions, coupled with their apparent inability to honestly and rationally award rights to deserving applicants has resulted in continuing dissatisfaction and litigation. Then, their complete failure to develop adequate compliance, to control the many illegal fishing practices, is almost impossible to comprehend. Their mistakes are clear, as is the needed corrective action. This would be the requirement to start from scratch again in constructing an entity that is capable of doing a whole job, not as two halves that simply confuse the situation. The appointment a few years ago of the most incompetent and inappropriate minister to head up DAFF, under which Ministry Branch Fisheries fell, only served to further enhance the problems.

The question remains of how to be proactive and plan to correct the current situation before it is too late,
and even more is lost. Firstly, this will take a very substantial change of heart by the Cabinet to start
this process. I surely do not need to repeat in detail the litany of woes, mostly caused by impatience and poor
decision making by them in their wish, which overrode all sane thinking, to correct the wrongs of the past. Some of these were obvious, but most just imagined, complicated by newly created untruths solely to cover up their own shortcomings. Surely, by now, they must understand how the unnecessary and impractical affirmative action has hurt all South Africa’s peoples, driving away thousands whose skills we desperately needed to retain. This was then followed by unrestrained nepotism, coupled to the further appointment of so many to positions they had no right nor competence to hold, simultaneously creating the inevitable climate and the stimulus for totally unacceptable levels of corruption.

What are the reasons given for this unholy mess? Inevitably, once again, it is racism and the need for transformation. However, please minorities, forget our Constitution, even though it is claimed as the best in the world. Very few in the ANC meant what was said, other than probably Madiba, with his and Tutu’s much heralded “Rainbow Nation”, until he gave up in the face of the communist intransigence. Mbeki also possibly started as a believer, until felled for the same reason, coupled to his extraordinary HIV beliefs. However, now we seem to know with certainly that Cyril, the man who negotiated it, never believed in it!

How we go to where we are today

Am I a contrarian? I do not think so, though recently I have been so labelled rather too often, and not for the first time in my life. Proposing a contrary point of view, more often than not in the form of a question, does not justify the definition of a contrarian. Many people, particularly those in control, do not like to have their decisions queried, and this particularly applies to the scientific community, when they propose a scenario backed by their own and other’s research. However, when illogical statements occur in my field of expertise, I question them. This does not make me popular, particularly with scientists, who often believe that what they have proved must be correct, particularly if it is peer-reviewed. Yet, it is a fact in my experience that very often, during the next 12 to 24 months, these theories change. This is the nature of science, a number of steps forward and inevitably some thereafter in retreat. Whatever you do, do not for a moment think that I wish to discount them, for without their research, we would have nothing to go on, particularly in respect of the natural sciences.

However, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, I experienced their total dismissal of what today is known as anecdotal information, particularly that given by participants in the fields of their research. It was only at the turn of the last century that this negative attitude started changing. My problem has always been that I asked too many questions, as I am an unusual mix. I am certainly no trained scientist unfortunately, but it is a fact that since the age of about twenty the science of fish, fisheries resources, and the management and sustainability thereof, has been my lifelong hobby. As a result, my scientific knowledge, though far less than I would choose it to be, is there to a degree. In addition, my limited understanding is at least reinforced by the fact that I have been a fisherman, both commercially and recreationally for over sixty years.

My first experience of this was in the 60s, when I was purse seining the sardine shoals off the South West African coastline for the factory ship Suiderkruis. I had started, as was my wont, in the Cape West coast waters to try to understand the behavior and life cycle of the pelagic shoals that we fished there. Arriving in South West Africa, as it was then known, I sought the same information that I had been seeking in the South, in order to understand and therefore hone my skills in catching their relations.

At that time, the scientists believed that all sardines from Angola to Durban were the same species and belonged to the same resource. However, I very quickly realised that, for various reasons, the South West African shoals must belong to an independent resource, which, at best, might at times reinforce their next-door neighbors, the South African resource. I very quickly surmised the following:

That the area the resource was basically restricted to, was easily identifiable, as was their migration parameters, that it was highly unlikely, as determined by the scientists, that they had to reach the age of three years, before they spawned and that, from experiencing their migration pattern, their spawning age had to be two years; That the combined local shore-based and factory ship fleets were catching unsustainable quantities per season; Finally, that the activities of these fleets was actually interfering and stopping their annual spawning migration, almost certainly resulting in reduced reproduction.

I wrote an article covering all of this, sending it to a friend for possible publication in his magazine, “SA Shipping and the Fishing Industry.” Being a very competent and cautious editor, he sent it to my employer, one of his major Advertisers, and the Department of Sea Fisheries for their comment. The former warned him that its publication would mean no further advertising in his magazine and by the latter that it was unadulterated tripe! I, in turn, was told by my employer that any further written efforts in this direction would result in my contract been cancelled. All that I understood, but have never completely got over the fact that, when everything I said proved correct within the next five years, there was never an apology from the scientists, or anybody else. Later, my friend suggested that I write a cautious ‘I told you so’ letter that he might then publish. I declined, as I know no more futile phrase in the English language than ‘I told you so,’ because by then it is too late to do anything about it.

A couple of years later, I took one of the scientists, who had been so insulting about my ‘tripe’, on a research cruise in my ship. As we left, he promptly laid out his plans, which coincided with all the Departments old beliefs, directing me to sail south to Hollams Bird Island, where he believed all the juvenile Sardines would be found. I sailed north, which he only realized some hours later, demanding that I turned around immediately. I then shared with him in my knowledge about what he needed to know, confirming that I was happy to turn back, but only to go to Walvis Bay, where he could find another ship! With that, he made no comment, returned to his cabin, and missed supper. The next morning, while we were making a set on what I was quite sure was a shoal of juvenile sardines; he reappeared, still made no comment, told us what he needed then and thereafter, based mainly on my suppositions. No sorry, or thank you then, nor when he subsequently published a paper about the trip, based on everything I had told him. No acknowledgement made of any sort! Do you now understand, when I state that too many scientists are arrogant, and unwilling to learn from non-scientists!

In the early 90s, by which time I was living in KwaZulu Natal and running Ocean Trawling, as chairman of the Natal Fishing Forum, I found myself co-opted onto the National Fishing Forum in Cape Town chaired by Mandla Gxanya. Anticipating the needs of the coming Government in common with others on the Forum, I proposed to the chairman that the Industry 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. This decision was negatively received in official circles, and trust between Industry and Branch Fisheries, which became part of Agriculture, got off to a bad start, which persists to this day.

During the 90’s the realization increasingly dawned on all stakeholders that the inshore line fish resource had been seriously over exploited, in common with the west coast inshore spiny lobster. However, by this time the Department was embroiled in all the difficulties it had brought upon itself, including never ending appeals and litigation against the awarding of long-term rights. As a result, it was not until 2000 that the then Minister, Valli Moosa, declared an emergency in respect of line-fish, and began to give serious attention to sharply declining lobster landings. New regulations and actions, which were proposed by the scientists ten years earlier, were introduced belatedly, so had little effect. Then, in 2006, the Minister called an emergency Industry meeting, which I reported on as follows:

“As one’s eyes swept over the august gathering, a feeling of “deja-vous” washed over one, to be followed by dejection; No! Downright helplessness, as slowly the enormity and inevitability of the problems facing those present suddenly clarified. Here lay an Industry brought to its knees, sacrificed on the altar of political and social expediency, greed, and opportunism. Here lay another division of the enormous business of Government facing the bankruptcy of application, effectiveness, adequacy, and ability, let alone financially. It was not the first; perhaps Home Affairs enjoys that “privilege.” It was not even the second, or the third, but it was our Department, an irreplaceable cog and part of our Fishing Industry, and, whilst it had been happening, none of us had wanted to believe it.

One’s thoughts had to go back over the last twenty-five years of our countries turbulent history and reflect on the sea change in the tide of African humanity. Maybe one had to conclude that it came down to too little too late for our peoples, so that we, today, stare into the face of the results of an almost bloodless revolution. However, the self-same aftermath applies to all revolutions, those of poverty and destruction brought on by the inevitable chaos of change, in perceptions, and values, and priorities.

However, here was everybody, the Minister, his DG, the DDG and departmental heads of MCM, the captains, or at least their lieutenants, of large industry, medium industry, and representatives of small industry, of subsistence fishers, of the Mari-culture industry, of the non-consumptive industry, and some other closely related participants. Could this gathering be a final turning point, and, if so, in which direction, towards the rehabilitation or the final extinguishment of those halcyon hopes of 1994, as far as this industry, together with the country, was concerned.

The Minister commenced, with his normal political aplomb and undoubted skill, to lay the foundation for a “non mea culpa statement.” You see, they had inherited all the problems, which he and the present participants in his department now faced. It was then difficult to be precise as to who was to blame, as most of his crew had very familiar faces, and had in fact been around for some time. The Minister took over his portfolio in April 2004, and, in one notable case, one person had returned to the fray after originally being incapable of winning the battle, which now might just become a lost cause. Yes, there were some new faces with which one had to have sympathy. Please note, he said at one point, that the Marine Living Resources Fund was created and governed by Parliamentary decision, not by his Department, and therefore was not their fault. Whose fault was it then, when all its income was collected and flowed in through MCM’s regulations direct from industry (levies, permit fees, etc.) or indirectly (fines, and penalties) with the only exceptions being direct governments grants to it? Then the same minister and the same people at MCM controlled its total outflow. Whose fault then that it had been used for other than the intended reasons. However, one had to admit that the purpose or the reasons for a “separate” fund always were somewhat vague and idealistic rather than practical.

The Honourable Minister had, in the meantime, spelt out his hopes for his anticipated deliberations at the meeting, to help him and his minions overcome the “inherited” problems. These would include reporting on the state of the main marine exploitable resources, the unavoidable reasons for the misadministration of the MLRF (by his ministry?), all of which would be explained by his new DG (were they explainable?). Then, they would discuss his and MCM’s perceived need to have a small committee, mandated and wholly representative of industry, to act as liaison and consultancy to, and co-management with, MCM to guide it in its future endeavours.

Earlier, Dr. Mayekiso had, indirectly and almost surreptitiously, raised this last proposal, to which no one had paid attention. Conveniently, just when the meeting threatened to get out of hand, the Minister very cleverly repeated it. This of course resulted in Industry taking their eye of the ball of misspent, maybe even missing, funds, bankruptcy, incompetence, etc.

However, one proceeds too fast, and some of the content of the discussions before this point was reached, were very important. Firstly the Minister suggested, if somewhat obliquely, that his department had failed both him and the Industry. This in itself was a remarkable admission, which produced the first real foundation for possible re-building.

After he finished his opening address, he asked if, at that stage, there were any relevant comments from the floor as to his approach to the problems. The floor appeared initially somewhat lost for words. Then Mr. Walsh, an industry participant for some fifty years, now retired having reached the year of his biblical allowance, though still representing one of its smallest components, took the Minister at his word. He asked for complete openness seeing this was a private and closed gathering. He stated that the Minister needed to acknowledge, that, with government and its bureaucracy being the management of the business of running the country, he was the CEO of his Department of Environment and MCM, a major division thereof. “I would not like to be in your shoes, Mr. Minister, when I stand before my chairman (the President), my financial controllers (Ministers Manuel, and Mboweni), and my board (the Cabinet) to report that my one division (MCM) is bankrupt. Nor would I like to report that it is so well run that our auditors declined to audit it for the lack of auditable record keeping by either the Department, or the MLRF fund under its custodianship. Needed first, Mr. Minister is an adequately competent administrative management for this division, before it even gets off the ground. Forget about anything else, such as affirmative action and chasing lost records, because no division without proper management and financial expertise for budgetary planning and discipline can ever be expected to fulfil its function. Even our most successfully run departments in government, viz SARS and the Reserve Bank, have seen fit to acknowledge their limitations. They have granted amnesty to their clients, because they acknowledge that they do not have the resources to police and investigate the past, but must rather concentrate those resources on the future. Even your Chairman (the President), and CFO (Mboweni), acknowledge, even if indirectly, that the necessary skills are just as much, and maybe even more so, a priority, as is affirmative action. Affirmative action, at the cost of skills, is an invitation for failure and disaster.”

The Minister displayed his undoubted erudition, by accepting the criticism gracefully, and then the floodgates of comment opened, supporting Mr. Walsh’s views. Of course, in Industry traditional style, many speakers sought to protect their particular agendas rather than being completely open. However, given the Departments history of little co-operation, perhaps this should be understandable.

In his opening address the Minister had made mention of the fact that the industry was the most black empowered of all in South Africa. This had been achieved by the considerable broadening of rights holders, and this statement was almost certainly quite correct. What he failed to note, were the inevitable short-term results of this. These included reducing the productivity, so the country is right now facing huge shortages of fresh and frozen fish, considerable illegal exploitation (not only of abalone) that seriously endangers sustainability of so many resources, and the inappropriate, but understandable, expectations of so many grassroots unsuccessful applicants.

Perhaps wisely nobody, not even Mr. Walsh, had the courage to point out that that affirmative action was, almost certainly, a major reason for MCM’s ineffectiveness. Also that a very point made by Mr. Walsh, was the reason for all the white faces. Transformation has undoubtedly occurred, but the white faces (skills), still need to be there to give the new participants the mentorship they need. Ignore this obvious fact, and all we will reap is failure.

Then Dr. Mayekiso gave his report, omitting one of the most important sectors eco-socially, line fish. This only demonstrated the department’s obvious shortcomings. His report was “old hat” to most of the meetings participants who are well aware of the condition of their resources. Perhaps, however, it brought home in encapsulated form, just how important effective understanding, projections, management, and compliance measures are to ensure the industry’s resources sustainability.

Then it was Pam Yako’s turn to try to justify the “unavoidable problems” facing the MLRF. She deserves much sympathy. She really is not part of the cause, having only being elevated to the position of personal responsibility as recently as mid-2005. Perhaps it was also not her fault, as she was given the facts from someone in MCM to communicate to the meeting. However, all she achieved was to give the impression that the Department felt their priority was the usage of the patrol fleet. Their ill-advised and ill planned conception by the previous DDG was, as forecast by so many, always going to lead to a major disaster. This was further ensured by the fact that further projections or planning was not even referred to, but only the perceived need to finance their totally disproportionate costs, at all costs. It also underlined her and the Department’s lack of expertise in dealing with such matters. So bad was the situation that Richard Ball’s suggestion that some be sold off might hold great merit. Mr. Walsh later pointed out however “ The Industry has faced, over the last five years, exactly the same challenges that MCM suggests could not be foreseen, and are therefore the “raison d’etre” for their failure. Yet all their participants have survived the factors you deem unavoidable, and without big brother Government been at their shoulder to supply remedial handouts.” Perhaps that statement does not consider entirely the differing circumstances, nevertheless, also has great validity.

The Minister had now had enough; he threw his towel into the ring together with the sweetener, in more detail, of the proffered joint management scenario. It is a “must take,” though hugely complicated offer to Industry, if it can be effectively constructed. In the Ministers eyes, it is overly simplistic in its format of a few liaison representatives from the completely broadened industry. However, a way of implementing it must be thrashed out, and affected in a manner that ensures that he and MCM do not do about turns again, as has always happened in the past. Viz; the poor implementation format, and then the inevitable demise of the Consultative Advisory Forum; the ignoring of, and lack of, liaison with its own recognized sector bodies; the formation and then desertion of compliance co-operative committees, scientific sector workshops, industry sector liaison workgroups, etc., to name but a few. All are needed, and probably can never be replaced by two or three mandated individuals. They surely could only be participative representatives in overall co-management, and would need to be paid to do the job. They cannot be the ‘be all and end all’ of adequate liaison for so many sectors of this very large industry. Nevertheless, a committee was co-opted with a mandate of sorts to formalize a proposed formal liaison body from Industry, to co-manage with MCM by April 2007. All participants in our Industry should support this initiative and pray for its success. Maybe we would then have turned the first of many corners to come.”

Do I need to say that what begun with some expectation, soon fizzled out, achieving virtually nothing. Since then, the Department has slowly continued sinking into the mire of ineffectiveness and incompetence, most notably in the field of Compliance. The allocation of Long-term Rights was postponed twice, the Hake sector nearly lost its Stewardship Certification, and the need for sustainable exploitation has been ignored at an increasing rate in the name political expediency! Well we now have a new Minister appointed, who is credited with being everything that nearly all ANC government officials are clearly not! She is said to be pragmatic, highly competent, hardworking, and honestly honest‼

In addition, our President saw fit to move Branch Fisheries out of DAFF, into Environmental Affairs, where the other half of the split was housed. Maybe it is not first prize, but at least a very good second!

Is this, and all the other change that CR is trying to make, all too late, Well, we shall just have to wait and see, won’t we.

Where to from here?

The Department.

May we start of by assuming there is a will and political way to rejuvenate and restructure the Department of Fisheries.

Obviously, this must start with general changes from the very top. Here 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 both controlled by the Department.

  1. 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 5000 or so craft are valued at some R200,000,000. Estimated economic outflow from the sport is at least two billion Rand per year, whilst the potential for tourism growth in the sector is enormous.
  2. 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 accounts for a further 100, to 200,000 jobs.
  3. One hopes that the new Minister will have an understanding of the oceans, and what is in them. Then, most importantly, the director general and top management must have both maritime and management experience.
  4. The Department should be divided into seven divisions, each with a separate DDG or manager:
  5. a) Admin and financial
    b) Resource Management
    c) Compliance
    d) Fishing Rights Allocation
    e) Small Scale Fisheries
    f) Scientific and Environmental Division
    g) Mariculture
    h) 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 co-operative model is workable other than in the case of isolated communities such as Hondeklipbaai. Even there, the negative of such required cooperative action, the control of l over and illegal fishing, the human resources needed, and the finance, brings the whole 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 rank as offshore, and Abalone will have to be carefully re-evaluated, and fall outside this concept. 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, but 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 Rock Lobster and Abalone should be made available for local consumption only, which is a necessity to satisfy local and international tourists.

6. All commercial licences, including Ski-boats and dinghies should be limited to fixed locations with no roaming permitted.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Subject to oversight by the relevant parties, the above would be the basis for a rejuvenated Department. All resource regulations would need to be revisited and revised. For instance, commercial line boats and inshore rock lobster fishing craft must be allocated, by way of their licence and right, 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 by their choice only, not of the Department.

10. Incidentally, I, like everybody else, was overjoyed when the courts threw out the outrageous departmental decision to ban the landing of Red Steenbras. What about Red Stumpnose, and others that are very probably under greater threat, let alone the fact that the Department says it aligns itself with SASSI. This results in the conundrum of fish or fishing practices been negatively highlighted by the latter, whilst commercial exploitation on such resources is allowed by the former. Both are wrong in differing instances, and is it too much to ask them to come to realistic terms with each other.

On that subject, all fish in need of protection should be on the restricted recreational list, including Red Steenbras and Red Stumpnose, and several others. Seventyfour should also be elevated to this status, as in fifty years plus, after been banned, the resource must have recovered, even if it has to a degree changed its territorial habitat! Anyhow how do you check a fish’s improved status if they cannot be landed? It is common cause amongst many anglers that species like the above are once again seen in their catches. Peer pressure, catch and release, and appropriate catch limits will eventually do the job of enabling resource recovery.

11. As far as the recreational sector is concerned, here club membership and peer influence must carry the day in a field that is fast becoming better controlled by the individual fishermen themselves, as is been experienced all over the world. Good regulations and their strict application help, but voluntary self-control for the benefit of our successors is the key. If not, there will still be no extinction of stocks, simply a reduction in effort due to their scarcity, which has already had a major influence on the recreational fishing boat population over the past twenty years.

The Scientists.

I have a long history of alternative and contrarian views regarding the management of our line fish resources, and, for that matter, many other fisheries resources. However, please do not for a moment think that I disagree with many excellent Marine Scientists’ conclusions as to the state of our line fish stocks. It is how they reach those conclusions that worries me, and it would, furthermore, be nice to hear their specific opinions of how their decline might be reversed.

I have often criticised stock evaluation based mainly on CPUE. I still believe, in the company of many scientists, that mathematical models with several statistical inputs, including where relevant CPUE, must be the way to go. Management of small Pelagics in this manner occurs successfully all over the world. Admittedly, the parameters of input for line fish would be very different for obvious reasons. In addition, I do not fully support the “sex change” view taken by the authors of polygynous species. The trigger for sex change (sequential hermaphroditism) has been the need for male fertilisation in a particular group of such a species. Size is probably irrelevant other than the fact that the largest females of the group then seem undergo this change. Incidentally, though probably less common, there is evidence that it is also possible for males of some of these species to revert to the female gender!

Stock calculations always were, and still are, suspect, although the more and wider knowledge we are learning to accumulate, the more relevant they become. I recall fishery scientist, Mark Griffiths, best known for his work on Kob stocks (family Argyrosomus) and their correct identification. However, in his experience, he felt that the most vulnerable of all was the Cape Geelbek (Cape Salmon-Atractoscion aquidens), whose population he suggested along over some 2000 kilometres of the same coastline had reduced to under 5% of pristine level. Yet in the year 2000, this whole coastline from the Cape to Kwazulu Natal was subject to the greatest influx of Geelbek ever encountered in living memory, which continued for a couple of years. From where then did that huge recruitment arise? Who knows? The sad point was that this coincided with the basic collapse of already poor fisheries Compliance efforts, so that everybody, not only Commercial Right’s holders, but hundreds of Recreational fishermen, made a mockery of Regulations with catch limits totally ignored. As a result, instead of advantage been taken of this unexpected windfall to ensure future improved stock levels towards sustainability, uncontrolled over exploitation ruled the day!

Now, some scientists are using DNA technology to claim that only 1000 fully mature dusky cob remain along this same coastline, including all its estuaries? I think it is a poor presumption, which does not alter the fact that the stock is seriously depleted, over fished, and in urgent need of protection towards rebuilding and future sustainability. Scientific facts are only facts if unequivocally proven, not presumed, as the “Greenies” are so wont to do.

They also promote the suggestion that the reduced level of their stock could have led to what in effect amounts to interbreeding of different species?? We all know of very rare natural terrestrial occurrences of such, but this is far more unlikely in the marine environment, where the spawn and milt of various species are found in the same water column. Therefore, the natural block to such an eventuality must be even more effective in the sea. Anyhow, logically, if even possible, it is much more likely to occur in times of plenty, not scarcity! However, I suppose anything is possible, but again, where is the proof?

As for our scientists, please take issue with them, but please also remember that without their input and expertise, all will be lost. Then, our wonderful Marine resources, misunderstood and unquantified, would sink inevitably to the bottom of the oceans, instead of giving us so much food, wealth creation, jobs, tourism, and relaxation.

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