The ANC portfolio committee members on fisheries noted in Parliament on Monday 8 February 2011, when discussing the Draft Small Scale Fisheries Policy and its "community quota" provisions, that such a policy has not been implemented since 1920!
The intellectual dearth present in the debate was stomach churning. These Members of Parliament and the senior managers at the Department of Fisheries show a remarkable lack of basic understanding and knowledge of the domestic and international fisheries management arena they oversee yet they are determined to pass laws and policies that will certainly destroy entire fishery sectors.
As a commentator notes in the Business Day (10 February 2011, www.bday.co.za), you cannot expect logic from populists.
Perhaps the ANC portfolio committee members should ponder the following:
1. If community quotas were abandoned back in the 1920's (which they were not of course as the ANC brought this populist disaster back in 1998 with SACFC), why do you think that even the Nationalists abandoned such policies?
2. What is a "fishing community" in the 21st century? DAFF officials confirmed that they have identified about 5000 people who will benefit from this "community quota" policy. But what criteria will be used to EXCLUDE the "masses" from the "community". Who is the "community" in Port Nolloth, Gansbaai, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town? Will an ANC membership card suffice or will membership of a particular "faction" be required as is the case with the farcical and dire interim relief process where allegations of fraud, corruption and partisanship dominate?
3. Where in the world has commercial community quotas for wild fisheries management worked? Anywhere and how precisely does DAFF foresee it working in SA with a coastline of 3000 km and an established system of individual long term inshore fishery quotas which are valid between 2013 and 2015? DAFF's draft policy and presentation to Parliament confirms that they do not have the remotest clue.
4. If DAFF has so utterly failed in managing the interim relief poaching process with "just" 1500 fishers, poachers and paper quotas, how on earth can it expect to manage 5000 undefined community members along a 3000km coastline? DAFF is unable to even manage small inshore fisheries such as abalone, oysters or mussels.
5. Why has DAFF to date been unable to define the economic and biological model that will be required for these community quotas? Is it because, there is no viable economic and biolgical model to satisfy such a farcical theory? How much fish will be required to satisfy the inflated and false promises? Where will this fish come from? If the current allocation of quotas to 2200 individual inshore fishery quota holders are "too small", then how will DAFF accommodate 5000 plus? Who will pay for the substantial management and administrative costs of community quota companies, such as directors' fees, audit fees, etc?
6. In the 1990's, the ANC also vehemently supported the creation of SACFC and other "community quota" companies. It only took 2 years for SACFC to fail miserably as the directors stole the income and profits from the fishing quotas and left the 3000 "community members" destitute and without quotas. And what did the ANC do? Nothing except make further empty promises about access to mystical fishing quotas. DEJA VU?
7. When the the proposed community quota process fails and the looters make off with the millions of rands in profits and the lobster, linefish and abalone resources are totally destroyed, will these MP's and officials be held accountable and how? Will they simply abandon the thousands of fishers left poverty stricken again?
8. Why have the more than 2200 artisinal and small-scale commercial fishers united in opposition to this policy? Have these MP's studied their submissions and understood the reasons for their opposition?
The burning question must be (as with the foolish mines nationalisation debate), why are the DAFF and its Minister so committed to adopting a policy that history shows will fail; will result in resource depletion; will result in increased job losses and poverty? Perhaps we should stop asking the naive questions and instead ask who stands to benefit financially from the implementation of such a flawed policy?