Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Value of IUU Fishing in SA Waters

In April 2009, Feike's Shaheen Moolla, together with the Institute for Security Studies, published a research paper which sought to contextualise and place a value on the quantum of fish illegally harvested across South Africa's major commercial fisheries. The research paper estimated the illegal harvests to be worth R6 billion (US$790 million), which is approximately R1 billion more than the total value of the legal commercial landings in 2008. The publication of the research paper generated much interest and debate, which convinced the ISS to host a public discussion forum where the paper's methodology and findings were open to debate and criticism.

Although Marine and Coastal Management, which is criticised extensively in the paper for its role in allowing the mushrooming of illegal fishing, objected strongly to the findings as being devoid of fact and truth, they strangely opted to not attend the public debate where they were free to expose the paper's flaws and factual inaccuracies.

On 30 April 2009, MCM issued a press statement objecting to the research report. Part of the press release stated that MCM intended to present the "facts" and had accordingly appointed a panel of experts to peer review the paper. Despite numerous requests, MCM has elected to not elaborate on this "peer review" panel, including who is on it and what their brief was. There has also never been a tender issued calling for the appointment of this panel. The press statement went on to promise that the "the findings of the peer review, which we anticipate to be completed within the next few weeks, would be made available to the public." More than 5 months have passed since this press statement and no one has yet to hear anything further about or from this panel.

The public debate did conclude that the findings of the research report were indeed startling and worrying. Perhaps more importantly, the publication of the paper started an important debate about the financial, ecological and social costs of illegal fishing in South Africa. The ISS and Feike will publish an updated report on IUU fishing in South Africa toward the end of 2009. It is intended that this report will focus on the illegal trade in abalone, hake and shark fins.

post script: Perhaps the peer review panel should rather adjourn and wait for the findings of the updated 2009 report.

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