The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) published its 2010/2011 strategic plan which includes budgetary and delivery commitments until 2015 in the past week. "Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management" is listed as Programme 7. The strategic plan has clearly been compiled by a department and officials who until very recently were not sure as to who would be in charge of fisheries - DAFF or the department of environmental affairs. It would therefore be unfair to have expected a comprehensive and watertight plan with substantial detail about delivery of the identified objectives. However, now that we have confirmation that DAFF will take charge of fisheries from 1 April 2010 (and there is speculation that DAFF will also take charge of all marine protected areas and the Integrated Coastal Management Act on 1 April), the strategic plan would require revisiting in a number of important areas.
We identify some of these areas below. The strategic plan can be accessed on www.daff.gov.za
1. Increasing Black empowerment in the fisheries sector is identified as one of the key objectives. Although most of the inshore fisheries are significantly black empowered, there are a number of sectors where broad based black economic empowerment has been lagging for an array of reasons. For example in the squid fishery, black empowerment has been significantly lower than the industry average. DAFF's strategic plan needs to focus on the next round of fishing rights allocations in 2013 in the squid, line fish, KZN prawn trawl, beach seine and demersal shark sectors. Previous experience shows that you need to start preparing for a rights allocation process about three years prior to the expiry date of the rights in question.
2. Development of a shellfish sanitation programme. It is noted that the development of such a programme is listed as a baseline target despite the fact that a shellfish sanitation programme was developed in collaboration with (the old) SABS. Perhaps the 2004 programme requires revision.
3. Relations with RFMO's and LME's. The strategic plan does not yet mention what DAFF's views are with respect to the role it intends playing at key RFMO's such as ICCAT, CCSBT, SWIOFP, CCAMLR etc. In addition clarity is also desperately sought with respect to South Africa's commitments to the Benguela Current Commission and the Aghulhas-Somali Current LME.
4. Tuna long line fishery and the Octopus fishery. Both fisheries are in urgent need of regulatory intervention, guidance and assistance. The tuna and swordfish long line fisheries are being suffocated by economically unrealistic policies and a lack of political commitment to lobby for larger tuna allocations to South Africa. The experimental octopus fishery too has effectively been terminated because of a lack economic understanding and flexibility on the part of MCM.
5. DAFF's objectives to increase access to the commercial fisheries and to increase black empowerment can be supported by focussing energies toward new fisheries research and development.
6. A review of the Marine Living Resource Fund's funding model is also urgently required. For a starter, the draft gazette on levies published in February by the department of environmental affairs requires urgent review. DAFF would do well by shelving that gazette and commence with an honest and comprehensive consultation process on what would be a sustainable funding model for commercial, recreational and small-scale/artisinal fisheries in South Africa. If members of the industry recall, MCM had spent a couple of million rand in 2006/2007 on consultants who drafted a "new levies policy" after having travelled to, inter alia, Australia on some "study tour". So there is a multi-million rand policy document on levies on a shelf somewhere in MCM.