Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MCM Remains Rudderless

More than 7 months since President Zuma signed the proclamation appointing the Minister of Fisheries in charge of marine and coastal management, the branch continues to be - as one ANC member of Parliament put it - led by actors! The head of the organisation is an acting deputy-director general (the third actor since January). Neither does MCM have a chief director of the critical post of fisheries management nor a chief financial officer. Their are dozens of director posts in research and fisheries management that continue to remain vacant.

The lack of professional fisheries managers, fisheries economists and fisheries researchers is having an obviously profound adverse impact on fisheries management.

Firstly, we still have no idea what the Minister's intentions are with regard the management of our commercial fisheries, the restructuring of marine and coastal management and the expansion of marine and freshwater fish farming except for some very vague and ambiguous statements in her last budget speech (but nothing substantive since).

Secondly, there is the shattering silence on a range of critical domestic fisheries management issues such as the near complete collapse of the hake long line industry, high levels of unregulated and unmanaged fishing in the lobster sector, even higher levels of poaching in the abalone fishery and general chaos in the small scale commercial fisheries which has allowed for a number of questionable opportunists with known poaching backgrounds to take advantage and secure areas of influence. For example, the number of convicted poachers or those known to be engaging in illegal fishing that attended the Minister's budget vote dinner in April this year was alarming. And of course nothing be said of the fact that in a matter of less than 36 months commercial fishing rights need to be allocated in the squid, line fish, KZN prawn trawl, large pelagic, shark demersal, beach seine and a number of other fisheries.

Thirdly, as is the case with domestic fisheries management, DAFF is confusingly silent when it comes to international and regional fisheries management. For example, DAFF has no policy position on the upcoming Benguela Current Commission Ministerial meeting on 2 September 2010 and appears to have deflected its role in this critical regional fisheries management toward the environmental department. The same applies when it comes to fisheries management at CCSBT, ICCAT, COFI, IOTC, ASCLME, the Abidjan Convention, SEAFO etc.

So besides allocating the odd fishing permit and unhelpfully pronouncing on the performance review process, it remains a mystery as to what precisely we can expect from the "new" fisheries branch some 16 months after the establishment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Perhaps we can expect a functioning fisheries website soon?

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