Sunday, April 10, 2011

Large Pelagic Appeal Decisions Announced

On 15 March 2011 the Minister of Fisheries finally attached her signature to the appeals lodged by unsuccessful applicants in the tuna and swordfish long line fisheries.

The decisions themselves are uncontroversial and appear to be rational and all the rest of it. What does however warrant comment is that the Appeals document published on the DAFF website notes that 7 appeals were lodged (actually there were 8 if one counts the list of appellants further down the document) ... in March 2010. That is right, 8 appeals were lodged in March 2010.

In other words, DAFF took 12 months to administer and no doubt "apply their collective minds" to 7 (err 8) appeals. 8 appeals in 12 months amounts to less than 1 appeal a month!

There is less than 2 years to go before the next round of fishing quota allocations in some of the most lucrative and important sectors such as squid, line fish, hake handline, tuna long line, abalone, sharks, etc. In 2005, these sectors contributed about 1900 applications in total. Assuming DAFF more than doubles its efforts and evaluates 2 applications per month, it will take them about 79 years to conclude the application process for just these handful of sectors - there are 22 commercial fisheries, by the way.

We must however warn readers that DAFF has not even yet begun to even evaluate the successes or failure of the 2005 sector specific objectives (generally called an M&E process in industry parlance), let alone considered new policies or begun the consultation process for drafting new policies. It is worth noting that before the final acceptance by Cabinet of the 2005 fishery policies, the policy development process had commenced shortly after the finalisation of the 2001/2002 medium term rights allocation process and an independent M&E process on the impact of quota allocations on various sectors.

There are two possible scenarios as to what DAFF will do come the next allocation process. The first is what they did with the oyster and mussel sectors - nothing and simply allowed the fishing rights to lapse and then mismanage the sectors via "exemptions" - a euphemism for extreme laziness and/or gross incompetence. Of course both sectors, if managed well could have contributed immensely to the development of small-scale or artisinal fishers as stated in the policy objectives for both sectors. But of course those developmental objectives are no match for gross incompetence and populist rhetoric and propaganda which take little effort and no intelligence of course.

The second option (equally as likely as the first, I must admit) is that fishing rights will simply be reallocated in a mad panic for a minimal period to address the "challenges" they will no doubt allude to when the time comes.

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