Monday, November 23, 2009

Mayekiso is removed as head of MCM

On 23 November 2009, Monde Mayekiso who was appointed as head of Marine and Coastal Management in 2005 for a second time in as many decades, was finally "moved to focus on the area of marine science, ecosystem management and climate change within the department". Feike also understands that after months of indecision and embarrassment, South Africa actually will have a minister of fisheries that is actually responsible for fisheries regulation and management. Feike understands that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will assume control over fisheries, replacing the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs who had appeared to exert executive control in this sphere since May 2009.

The fishing industry will undoubtedly breathe a huge collective sigh of relief that Mayekiso has finally been removed as he oversaw the collapse of MCM and its funding arm the Marine Living Resources Fund for a second time. Mayekiso was removed as head of MCM in 1999 by the then Minister of Environmental Affairs, Valli Moosa.

However, although there is relief at his removal, the question at this important time is who will assume the reigns of a vaguely functional MCM? MCM's operational budget is equivalent in rand terms to the 2003/2004 budget. It has a massively oversized administration and personnel costs are excessive. It was recently forced to admit that its compliance strategies with respect to abalone have been a failure and it has no idea how to curb abalone poaching which currently costs the economy in the region of R3 billion annually. Fisheries management is in turmoil burdened with bureaucracy and a leadership that is incapable of supporting the fishing industry during these difficult economic times. Fisheries research is under significant pressure as it has had to reduce scientific surveys and keep research vessels in port.

MCM requires smart and efficient leadership at this juncture. The new DDG will require strong political support to effect the types of changes required to recover MCM and its funds to levels where it can actually provide the services the fishing industry pays for. A 5 step recovery plan should be based on the following:

Step 1: A visionary and knowledgeable leadership is required in significant dollops. MCM has been lacking visionary leadership for far too long hence its perennial crises.

Step 2: Reduce staff numbers in the administration and support sectors. You would probably save about R20 million in staff and office costs. Outsource the administration of permitting, licensing and vessel management to the fishing industry and right holders themselves. MCM need only audit compliance once annually at the end of the season. You would probably save another R10 million in wasted administration costs - not to mention all those trees that would be saved.

Step 3: Regain control over illegal fishing and maladministration in MCM. With respect to illegal fishing, there are two reasons why MCM has failed so entirely here. Firstly, with the commercial and artisinal sectors, MCM has no relationship at all with the right holders. MCM is on record, for example, as stating that all abalone right holders are poachers! Rebuild relations. Secondly, to get control over the illegal trade in abalone, the institutions and systems that existed in 2004 need to be re-established. Overall, MCM must move away from compliance enforcement to monitoring and surveillance with an emphasis on intelligence (!) gathering and partnerships.

An effective compliance strategy will actually cost MCM about R80 million annually as it will lose income from the sale of confiscated abalone. This would explain why MCM had intentionally collapsed compliance in the first place.

Step 4: Funding for fisheries management. If one discounts the R80 million plus that MCM currently relies on from the sale of confiscated abalone to a more sustainable R10 million, then MCM's most significant income earner is from the fishing industry in the form of administration fees and levies. We would recommend a review of the basic funding model and allow the fishing industry a greater oversight and advisory role akin to other international jurisdictions, such as Australia.

Step 5: Rebuild working and effective relations relations with the South African fishing industry.

Here's hoping.

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