Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Minding the Information Gap

Ever since the installation of Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2009, we have had a growing number of statements and questions over the levels of black ownership, empowerment and transformation in the fishing industry by members of government, including the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries. What is apparent is that the department of fisheries and the Minister simply don't know or understand the fisheries economy of this country.

The institutional meltdown at the department of fisheries has contributed greatly to the lack of any discernible information on, analysis or performance measuring of our commercial fisheries. Just consider the utter nonsense that was published as "data" from the evaluation of the Cluster C and Cluster D fisheries - and the millions of rands that was wasted on that useless and error-ridden data.

Without accurate and reliable socio-economic data it is impossible to properly regulate commercial or recreational fisheries. Feike has over the years invested substantial resources and energy into understanding the socio-economic relevance of our commercial fishery sectors. In 2008, we published an in-depth analysis of the socio-economic profiles of some of South Africa’s most important commercial fisheries. In addition, we monitor the total and individual fishery sector values on an annual basis based on the average landed values of the principal target resources.

Here are some of the more significant headline statistics on fisheries.

In 2006, the commercial fisheries landed approximately 630 000 tons of fish worth an estimated R4,4 billion. By 2010, some 745 000 tons of fish was landed worth an estimated R5,4 billion. The hake deep-sea trawl fishery has consistently been South Africa’s most important commercial fishery, accounting for 53% of the total value of the commercial fisheries. The small pelagic fishery, comprising pilchards and anchovies, has consistently been the largest fishery by volume, accounting for more than 550 000 tons of fish in 2010.

If one considers the significant level of social transformation of the commercial fisheries since 1994, it ought to serve as the benchmark of black economic empowerment and social transformation for most of our economic sectors. Whereas black ownership of the commercial fisheries was almost non-existent in 1994, with quotas divided amongst some 400 operators, by 2005 (when long term commercial fishing rights were allocated), more than 3000 fishing rights were allocated with black ownership of fisheries at 60.9%. Between 2001 and 2005, the commercial fisheries increased employment numbers from approximately 29 000 to more than 43 000.

And South Africa’s most valuable and important commercial fishery, the hake deep-sea trawl fishery, has led by example. In 1994, of the 21 quota holders, black ownership was measured at less than 0.5%. Five quota holders shared 92% of the catch allocation. By 2001, black owned and managed quota holders controlled 25% of hake trawl catch. The number of right holders more than doubled to 53 quota holders and the quota held by the five largest quota holders was reduced to 74%. By 2005 when the trawl fishery was allocated 15-year long commercial fishing rights, black owned and managed quota holders controlled 43% of hake trawl catch and the five largest quota holders controlled a further reduced 70% of the catch.

The fishery directly employs some 8000 people and 75% of all hake deep-sea trawl skippers are black. Right holders in the trawl fishery employ an average of 70 persons per 1000 tons of fish; while their international counterparts employ about 40 persons per 1000 tons of fish.

Without a cogent and rational understanding of the socio-economy of the fisheries sector as a whole and of individual sectors, how is the department possibly going to even begin preparing for the allocation of commercial fishing rights in 13 commercial fisheries in 2013 and 2015? How does the department even begin to develop policy to manage the next round of fishing rights allocation without having monitored and evaluated performance of fishery sectors and right holders against the legally binding policy objectives set out in each of the fishery policies?

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