Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is there a point to DAFF?

The Department of Fisheries (DAFF) has been in existence since June 2009 when the new administration recognised the critical ecological and socio-economic relevance of marine fisheries and fish farming. Fisheries was then unbundled from the department of "environmental affairs and tourism". However, between June 2008 and April 2009 fisheries was left in limbo as the departments of environment and fisheries fought a bitter turf battle to control fisheries and the marine living resources fund.

In the end although the administration of fisheries was moved back to the department of fisheries, the administration and management of fisheries is - frankly and honestly - in complete chaos and free-fall. DAFF and DEA have admitted that neither one actually knows who is in charge of what? Is DAFF in charge of fisheries? Is DEA in charge of the fish in marine protected areas? Is DEA in charge of managing sharks and whales? But don't these fish and mammals subsist in a "fisheries environment"? DEA stated in the Sunday Times (17 October 2010) that DAFF is NOT in charge of fisheries conservation! Can you believe that? Talk about the epitome of utter ignorance and stupidity.

So what is DAFF in charge of? Fisheries non-conservation? Huhh? Then of course Marine Week in October went by and DAFF was nowhere to be heard of or found. The WWF recently published its revised SASSI list which listed South Africa's MSC certified sole trawl fishery as orange (essentially saying it and a host of other fisheries are poorly managed, which they are not), and DAFF remained silent, which may yet cost the industry a couple thousand jobs and untold reputational damage but these are minor issues compared to the importance of factional battles. Many in industry are actually now referring to Industry and WWF as the de facto regulators of SA fisheries.

Other than costing the SA taxpayer and the fishing industry about R500 million annually in salaries, international business class flights to meetings and conferences, staff bonuses and Christmas parties, it is still unclear wPublish Posthat is the purpose of the Department of Fisheries. Oh, they do hold many important meetings and workshops!

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