Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To Assign or Not to Assign Fisheries Management to the Western Cape Government

Given the shocking levels of mismanagement, the lack of fisheries and institutional knowledge and increasing unhappiness of the industry (big, small and artisinal) with the fisheries branch and the (absent) Minister of Fisheries, we believe that the only way to arrest the terminal decline of fisheries management in our country is to invoke section 78 of the Marine Living Resources Act.

Section 78 of the Marine Living Resources Act makes explicit provision for the assignment of ministerial powers and functions to provincial MEC's. We hold the view that the current Minister should urgently consider the assignment of her fisheries management powers and functions to the Western Cape government (we certainly would not recommend any assignment to the Eastern Cape which is effectively a failed state) in so far as -

  • governance and administration of fisheries in the territorial waters of the Western Cape is concerned;
  • the management of fish processing, compliance, trade and general management of fisheries in Western Cape based harbours and on vessels and in factories operating out of the Western Cape.
Essentially this proposal seeks to save our most important and valuable inshore fisheries (both commercial and recreational) from complete collapse which is where they are fast heading under the incompetent management of the Department of Fisheries. Just consider the dire state of inshore rock lobster (compounded by the Department's open access interim relief project), abalone, line fish, oysters, trek nets...).

At the heart of the collapse of our inshore fisheries is a combination of factors (ANC cadre deployment, ill-conceived populist policies such as the subsistence fisheries policy which seeks to take fisheries management back to the previous century - literally and critically a lack of any policy or vision by the ruling ANC on fisheries - their manifestos and policy documents are silent on fisheries). An assignment of powers and functions to manage fisheries, fish farming and fisheries-related activities to the Western Cape government would essentially remove these key threats.

The assignment will be psychologically easier if one accepts that fisheries is irrelevant to national socio-economy but it is of critical relevance to the socio-economic well-being of the Western Cape. After-all it has been estimated that at least 80% of all commercial fisheries activity (catching, processing, marketing, operational management etc) occurs in the Western Cape. The Western Cape further accounts for perhaps 90% of all marine-based recreational fishing activity.

Fisheries management is currently at his nadir; it can't hurt to try an assignment as we suggest here. If the DA-led provincial administration stuff it up (and frankly can it get any worse?), at least the ANC could use this as their campaign in the next provincial government elections in 2014.

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