A few weeks back Feike, together with the Abalone Industry Association, requested that the department of fisheries make available certain reports that were used to inform the scientific recommendations on the 2011/2012 abalone total allowable catch (TAC). The department's officials initially refused access to these documents as they were deemed "confidential". When Feike noted that as the "Secrecy Bill" was not law (yet), officials did not have a right to simply decide what is "secret" or confidential, the officials changed tack stating that application for the documents should be made under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA)!
Feike then requested access to the department's PAIA Manual which, we noted was not available on the DAFF website and could not be found anywhere. Every department must have a PAIA Manual stating, amongst other things, which categories and types of information are freely available without having to adhere to the normal PAIA request for information process. We also pointed out that all TAC documents must be made available on request in terms of the General Fisheries Policy of 2005.
Our requests for the Manual were fobbed off and of course the officials pretended to not know about that policy of 2005. Then suddenly, a couple of days after we demanded access to the PAIA Manual noting that a refusal to provide the Manual constituted a criminal offence, a brand new PAIA Manual suddenly appeared on the DAFF website, specifically excluding public access to current TAC documents! How convenient!
And how incredibly dishonest! But by unjustifiably "classifying" as secret such critical documents that directly inform the how and why TAC's are set, DAFF has now in effect forced the Minister of Fisheries to first consult adequately with the abalone fishing industry (and for that matter other fishing industries) BEFORE she unilaterally publishes TAC's, especially where the TAC results in quota decreases.