Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Abalone Quota Holders fish entire quota in a morning

Many abalone quota holders east of Cape Hangklip have caught their entire annual quota in a single morning usually between about 8am and 11am. One processor in the area confirmed that of the quotas it has arrangements with for processing about 50% or 20 tons have been harvested over a period of about 9 fishing days.

Although clearly happy with their legal quotas, many quota holders have expressed concerns that the department of fisheries has yet to develop a compliance and management strategy for the fishery more than 30 days into the harvesting season. For example, fishery compliance officers are still unsure how to deal with quota holders that land slightly more than their allocated quotas as quota holders cannot carry a scale on their vessels. Quota holders have prudently suggested that the normal tolerances should be allowed for (about 10% of the legal catch limit), alternatively, that over-catches be allocated to fellow quota holders and deducted from their permits. Further, catch allocations across the TURF's appear haphazard and do not comply with the abalone fishery policy of 2003 and also the inter-area schedule that was reluctantly made available by the Department and after the abalone industry association threatened legal action.

Of greater concern is the fact that when the fishery was opened back in June 2010, the Minister of Fisheries stated that the commercial fishery was opened subject to "conditions" by Cabinet. To date, these conditions have not been made public and neither has a management plan been discussed with right holders to curb poaching and increase research and management budgets for the fishery.

Many right holders have commented that they found it strange how they were able to fish their entire quota in 3 hours even in areas where the Department has admitted poaching is rifest. Perhaps it is time that the Department of Fisheries employs an independent research team of biologists, quota holders, NGO representatives and quota TURF representatives to undertake annual research surveys into the ecology of the stock.

It has been estimated that by the time the legal quota of 150 tons is harvested (probably by month-end), approximately R52 million would been earned by right holders directly and re-invested in the coastal communities.

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