Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marine Anti-Poaching Project Launched

The Department of Fisheries launched the Marine Anti-Poaching Project on 14 December 2010. The project involved the training of 60 veterans from (predominantly) the ANC's military veterans wing, MK. Their training over the past 6 months involved surveillance, intelligence, investigation practice and risk assessment.

However, while their training lasted 6 months, the project has a budget that will end in March 2011 which will mean that these ex military veterans will only be "patrolling" the coast for 3-4 months.

We have previously derided the decision to use ex military veterans. However, given the desperate state of chaos in the department of fisheries, coupled with the growing number of cases of gross mismanagement, "quota" grabs and shenanigans involving the farcical interim relief process over the past few months, the comedy of deploying ex military veterans is almost welcomed. At least there will be 60 more officers patrolling the coast?

However, on a serious note what is of concern is that although there have been a number of arrests of poachers reported in the media by the South Africa Police and the Department Fisheries, we are not aware of a single case that resulted in jail terms and asset seizures. This is principally because of poorly trained criminal prosecutors who are unfamiliar with environmental and fisheries laws, a magistracy that is overwhelmed with criminal cases considered a greater priority than green crimes and an inclination by the Department of Fisheries to raise cash through plea bargains and quick settlements.

And then of course you have the Department of Fisheries itself contributing directly and indirectly to poaching by being significantly reliant on the income from the sale of confiscated fish and mismanaging the allocation of interim relief quotas to extent that it has.

Until these and other systemic crises are resolved, the use of MK vets to patrol our coast whether for 4 months or longer will simply serve as a band-aid for a multiple gun-shot victim.

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