The Department of Fisheries held an important consultative meeting with abalone right holders to discuss a range of administrative, management and compliance issues. During the meeting the Department confirmed that 96% of the 150 ton quota had already been fished.
The meeting which was very well attended raised a number of important discussion issues including the following:
- The conditions issued by Cabinet for the opening of the fishery. It is unclear why these conditions were presented to the right holders at the end of the season as opposed to in June (before the fishery opened);
- Administration of the fishery. The Department sought to encourage right holders to work with the Department by providing the correct information required to process applications and clarified time frames;
- An integrated security strategy and MCS. The Department reconfirmed its intention to partner with the National Intelligence Agency to root out poaching by investigating organised criminal syndicates. However, as many right holders noted, these promises of an integrated security strategy and an MCS strategy for the abalone fishery were previously made and have not been fulfilled. It is also not clear why the National Intelligence Agency needs to be involved when the South African Police and its Hawks division is charged with investigating organised criminal syndicates.
- Co-operative management. The Department once again put forward its intention to manage small scale commercial fisheries under a co-operative management type structure. DAFF officials initially promoted the idea with the carrot to right holders that they would receive substantially more for every kilogram of fish. This is of course is nonsense as buyers in China and Hong Kong simply do not operate on this basis and let us not forget that government made the same promises in the 1990's in support of the establishment of the SACFC co-operative which not only failed miserably but of course did not earn the fishermen more money for their fish - in fact they got substantially less as under a co-operative, they had to pay administration and management levies and all sorts of other costs.
- TURF management. The Department once again mentioned that it views the territorial user rights fishery (TURF) management system as a failure without providing any evidence of this view (although we note that it oddly supports TURF management in its small-scale fishery policy). The TURF management system in the abalone fishery has not worked because the Department unilaterally (and unlawfully) decided to stop implementing it in 2004/2005 so as to appease certain right holders whose fishing zones were being depleted and allowed these right holders access to zones that were being properly managed by the TURF management committees that were set up for the zones. To abandon TURF management for inshore small scale fisheries management would simply invite the chaos, mismanagement and illegality that has defined the abalone fishery since the Department stopped implementing the abalone fishery policy and its TURF principles.
Despite abalone poaching levels remaining high, the abalone fishery is bound to remain open and right holders should continue to fish for the remaining 2 seasons left of their long term rights which are set to expire at the end of 2013.