Thursday, December 20, 2012


2012 has been an awfully traumatic year for the South African fishing industry as it continues to suffer the fool that is Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. In its 2012 assessment of the Cabinet, the Official Opposition, the DA, had to note that had its assessment system made provision for grades lower than an 'F', Joemat-Pettersson would have qualified for the lowest. She in fact sets the bench-mark for gross incompetence. 

2013 could potentially hold much hope. For one we TRUST that the Public Protector will find against Minister Joemat-Pettersson in the three outstanding complaints against her, including the R800 million Sekunjalo Tender debacle and her unlawful interference in the west coast rock lobster TAC matter. 

Based on the Public Protector's first report on Joemat-Pettersson's free and immoral use of tax payer's funds on luxurious hotels and first class travel, she should have been removed from her post. But of course that is too much to expect since her profilgate spending is massively overshadowed by her boss' own R250 million plus looting of the public purse for his Nkandla Compound alone.

(Is it not tragic how we have come to completely rely on the Public Protector to protect us mere mortals from the ravenous looting of the public purse by these so-called elected officials holding the very highest public office?).

For the fishing industry, 2012 can best be summed up with the following collection of images and cartoons we have pulled from the archive.

The shocking state of our fishing harbours is a consequence of the sinking state of the DAFF. Our harbours have become thoroughfares for illegal fish (especially lobsters and abalone) and drugs.

2012 certainly saw Tina Joemat-Pettersson demonstrate her uncanny ability to keep shoving her feet in her mouth. From demanding that fish be equitably spread across the country and away from the Western Cape; her relentless factually devoid attacks on the fishing industry; to her unwavering commitment to destroying the department of fisheries and what little capacity it had left.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson's child-like tantrum thrown at the Cape Town Press Club in May without doubt confirmed her immaturity and unsuitability for high public office. Aware that she would be unable to defend herself and her conduct in the presence of the DA's Shadow Deputy Minister for Fisheries, she resorted to throwing a tantrum and demanded that the Shadow Deputy Minister leave before she would address the Press Club. And so the title Tantrum Tina was rightly bestowed on this so-called Minister. Her staff would later also refer to her as Looney Tina and the department of fisheries (DAFF) as Daffy Duck. Jokes aside, this Minister has succeeded to bring fisheries to its knees in record time.

In its October 2012 edition, Noseweek captured the very essence of what has defined Tina Joemat-Pettersson's reign of destruction of the South African fishing industry - the narrow-minded pursuit of self-interest. We keenly await the Public Protector's report on the infamous R800 million Sekunjalo vessel  management tender.

Frustrated with DAFF's inability to properly resource its staff and reduce illegal fishing, the City of Cape officially launched its own marine fisheries enforcement unit in May 2012. In November, the DAFF confirmed to Parliament that it had conceded defeat to abalone poachers and recognised that abalone stocks would be poached to extinction in the fishing zones between Arniston and Kleinmond.

When the Japanese-owned Eihatsu Maru ran aground off Clifton in May, the incident again exposed the failure of DAFF and its Minister to properly manage our fishery resources and implement South African fishing laws. The grounding of the vessel confirmed that DAFF was issuing foreign fishing vessel licenses in complete violation of section 39 of the Marine Living Resources Act. The incident also confirmed that had DAFF adhered to these provisions, the owners of the grounded vessel would have been forced to immediately pay for all salvaging and environmental costs associated with the grounding.

Landing Snoek on Paternoster beach on May. There were tons of illegal lobster landings as well. Not a single Fishery Control Officer or monitor in sight. All fish landed was undocumented. Most expensive lobster on offer was R30! Snoek was sold at R40 each. The scourge of illegal lobster fishing predominantly by the "interim relief" sector has plunged lobster stocks to crisis levels. Lobster is 97% overfished or is at 3% of pristine biological levels. Biologically, lobster is worse off than abalone and most line fish species which are considered to be in environmental crisis.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DA Rates Fisheries Minister

In its annual assessment of the Cabinet, the Democratic Alliance - South Africa's official opposition party - has rated Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson an unsurprising "F". We have noted that an "F" will not be considered too disastrous in ANC circles as an F is considered a pass of course these days. Hell, you need to get less than 30% to fail a South African test today! So an "F" certainly does not justify the official opposition's call that this useless Minister who spends tax payers money .... well like her boss, the President .... faster than us sods can submit tax returns!

Read the full Cabinet Report here. It makes for tragic reading.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Does DAFF have a DDG?

Has the Minister of Fisheries finally got around to appointing a (non-acting) Deputy Director-General of Fisheries? Feike has heard that Ms Greta Apelgren-Narkedien was appointed as the new Deputy Director-General of Fisheries with effect from yesterday (3 December 2012). 

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien is currently still listed as the Head of Department of the Northern Cape's Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs. 

Although Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's professional qualifications are unknown, what we do know is that she served in the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). Ms Apelgren-Narkedien was one of the MK Soldiers involved in the infamous of bombing of Durban's Magoo's Bar in 1986 which resulted in the death of women and more than 70 civilian injuries. Ms Apelgren-Narkedien applied for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, together with Robert McBride in 1999. Amnesty was granted in April 2001.

Although Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's permanent appointment (if confirmed by DAFF) will end the farce of having had some 9 acting DDG's over the past 2 years, it remains to be seen whether Ms Apelgren-Narkedien's lack of fisheries experience and knowledge will simply fast-track the total implosion of DAFF.

Like most institutions in this country, the fisheries branch has become nothing more than a political turf. Most recently we have seen the Minister's slimy hand involved in the unilateral and sudden abandonment of the west coast rock lobster recovery plan and operational management procedure to satisfy a single right holder who happens to have a direct phone line to her.

In addition, Ms Apelgren-Narkedien assumes her post at a time when it is plainly apparent that -
  • it is now legally impossible to allocate some 1000 fishing rights in 8 commercial and artisinal fisheries in 2013; 
  • the much-vaunted but fatally flawed "small-scale fisheries policy" will be nothing more than an empty populist promise (much like Joemat-Pettersson's unlawful promise to farm workers that they would get their R150/day pay hike by 4 December and that she will tell the prosecution authorities not to prosecute any farm worker for violence and destruction to farm lands); 
  • the fisheries research department sits with a 30% staff vacancy rate and not to mention that the majority of its most skilled and talented scientists are within 3 years of retirement with little or no succession plans in place; 
  • the fisheries research and patrol vessels appear doomed to remain cockroach and rat infested harbour-bound ships in Simonstown Harbour under dubious naval "command"; 
  • fisheries compliance remains moribund at best despite valiant efforts by a number of extremely hard-working fishery control officers on the ground. The department recently confirmed to Parliament that it has effectively given up the battle against abalone poaching with their strategy firmly focussed on confiscating as much abalone as possible (and thus earning more and more money from illegally harvested product). 
  • inshore fisheries management has fundamentally failed. Every single inshore fishery has been decimated by IUU fishing. The oldest fishery in the land - traditional line fishing - remains under environmental emergency; abalone has essentially completely collapsed between Arniston and Hangklip (Zones A - D) with zero recruitment being recorded in Zones C and D; and lobster is at 3% of pristine or 97% overexploited and the Minister has just abandoned the recovery plan to appease a single right holder.
  • the general but escalating mismanagement of fisheries increasingly places South Africa's prized  hake trawl MSC certification at risk. 
It is therefore hard to imagine how Ms Apelgren-Narkedien will compensate for her lack of expert and high-level knowledge of fisheries management as she seeks to address the above major obstacles in the next 6-12 months. Hint: Perhaps Ms Apelgren-Narkedien should urgently look back in history to 2000?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tina Joemat-Pettersson: A "Walking Disaster"!

The Business Day Editorial provides this gem of an opinion on our impressively contemptuous, damaging and destructive Minister of Fisheries (and Agriculture).

"THE African National Congress (ANC) has repeatedly said there should be no "holy cows" at Mangaung, yet there are clearly subjects — and individuals — that are considered above criticism or official reproach. Apart from the obvious example of President Jacob Zuma and his heavily subsidised domestic arrangements, another is Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson who, if not a holy cow, at least appears to be royal game. 
How else could any Cabinet minister have survived the series of bungles she and her department have committed in recent months? The woman is a walking disaster area, not to mention political liability, yet there is no hint from the Presidency that her job may be on the line. Contrast that with the fate of party members who have been silly enough to cross Mr Zuma or defy the ANC line over the years. 
Ms Joemat-Pettersson’s latest ill-considered act is her response to the public protector’s finding that she violated the executive ethics code, wasted taxpayers’ money and "displayed a blank-cheque attitude towards public funds". Rather than accept this slap on the wrist, Ms Joemat-Pettersson issued a statement rejecting the "media perception" that she is extravagant "with the contempt it deserves". She is correct — there is contempt involved, but it comes from her and is aimed at the public. 
Some in the ANC struggle more than others to hide their irritation at having to tolerate somebody who is so obviously unsuited to a Cabinet position. The spectre of another Marikana in the farm sector now hangs over Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, prompted to a large extent by Ms Joemat-Pettersson’s reckless assurance to violently striking farm workers that the sectoral minimum wage would be reviewed forthwith, and that they would not face charges, despite having caused millions of rand in damages. 
This was plainly not going to happen and Ms Oliphant is now having to deal with the fallout, which may well include renewed unrest next week. Add to this the recent serious errors and omissions by Ms Joemat-Pettersson’s department — the latest an unprecedented decision to ignore scientific advice to cut this season’s quota of west coast rock lobster — and questions arise that Mangaung delegates owe it to their party and country to answer: is there anything Ms Joemat-Pettersson could do or say that would invite censure? And, why is she untouchable?" 


Perhaps she is untouchable because she transferred R800 million intended for poverty relief projects to Zuma's Nkandla Compound (or no its racist to call it a Compound!) and essentially bankrupted the Zero Hunger Programme (ahh, nothing quite like these 'progressive' Mercedes-driving, 5 star-hotel-living communists making sure that the proletariat is equally poverty ridden). On 3 August 2012, the Mail & Guardian reported that -

"Two weeks ago [Middle of July 2012 - ed], Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, announced the donation of R800-million to Zuma's Masibambisane rural development programme at a ­government function in Qumanco in the Eastern Cape. 
A department official told the Mail & Guardian this week that in doing so Joemat-Pettersson had in effect diverted the R100-million budget for the department's Zero Hunger Programme to Zuma's project. The Zero Hunger Programme is a government initiative to support smallholder farmers and food ­security in rural areas. 
"In essence, the department does not have a budget for the Zero Hunger Programme anymore," said the official. "There was a celebratory mood that, with this intervention, Tina has secured the Eastern Cape for JZ. Initially, the department availed R800-million towards the mechanisation programme of the department to buy tractors and implements. R100-million of this budget was meant for the Zero Hunger Programme, but Tina insisted it [all R800-million] must go to JZ's project."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

SA Stock Assessment Review Workshop


Over Monday 26 to Friday 30 November an international panel of scientists will be conducting an annual review of the analyses used to provide scientific advice for the management of South African fisheries. This review takes the form of a workshop to be held at the University of Cape Town (Mathematics Building Room M212, 9 am to 5-30 pm daily). 

Four leading international fisheries scientists make up the review panel. They are Carmen Fernandez (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Copenhagen), Mauricio Ortiz (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, Madrid), Andre Punt (University of Washington, USA) and Tony Smith (Chair, Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation, Australia).

Discussions will focus on methods to determine the size and sustainable yields from South Africa’s line fish, south coast rock lobster and squid resources. For the last, deliberations will include the resource implications of a proportion of this fishery being allocated for use by small scale fishers in next year’s rights reallocation process. Attention will also be given to the computation of allowable catch levels in South Africa’s largest fisheries, those for hake and for sardine and anchovy. These computations rely on input from regular surveys of abundance carried out by the research vessel Africana. The calculation of appropriate catch adjustments necessitated by the cancellation of recent surveys by this vessel will be discussed. 

While most discussions will be fairly technical, at 3-30 pm on Friday 30th in room M304 of the Mathematics Building at UCT, the panel will present their findings and recommendations at a lay level, and thereafter answer questions from the audience.

Enquiries: Di Loureiro 021-650-2340 or email

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Minister Tina Joemat Petterson: Who is Lying Now?

So Mr Lionel Adendorf, departmental spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries ("DAFF"), was quoted in the Friday Argus newspaper (16 November) as stating that the Minister had nothing to do with the decision to abandon the lobster Operational Management Procedure ("OMP") and the recovery plan and the decision to maintain the TAC as unchanged was an internal DAFF decision "based on a variety of factors, including scientific research, economic and ecological considerations as well as employment creation". 

Now we can say without doubt that Mr Adendorf is not only being dishonest but is talking absolute nonsense. 

Firstly, DAFF (ie the Acting DDG) took a decision recorded in writing on 29 September 2012 to reduce the TAC by 9.72%. Once that decision was taken, it could not be re-taken in terms of South African law. Therefore, even on Mr Adendorf's dishonest and flawed version, the "decision" to change the TAC is unlawful and invalid. 

Secondly, there is no scientific basis, let alone any economic or ecological considerations to support Mr Adendorf's flawed contentions. The scientific and ecological evidence is clear. The OMP must be followed and that OMP required a reduction which was accepted and confirmed by the Acting DDG of DAFF on 29 September 2012. However, Mr Adendorf must now show us the scientific evidence he and Tina Joemat-Pettersson have that support an unchanged TAC as being beneficial to the sustainability of rock lobster stocks. Make no mistake, Mr Adendorf raised this and we will now be demanding this evidence. 

Further, we know for a fact that no economic or social studies were undertaken to determine whether a 9.72% TAC cut would result in job losses or any other adverse socio-economic consequences. But again, we will be demanding these studies from Mr Adendorf. 

(We wonder if they will now try and declare this evidence a national key point too!) 

Mr Adendorf, kindly provide us and the rest of the South African public with the following documents as a matter or urgency:

1. The scientific and ecological evidence showing that abandonment of the OMP and the rock lobster recovery plan is justifiable and necessary. In this regard, you must also explain why on Tuesday13 November, the Department's senior scientist, Dr Kim Prochazka, emphasised the importance of the lobster recovery plan, that it was being implemented and that she was completely unaware of any decision to maintain the TAC as unchanged. This is all recorded by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group in case you need to "apply your mind" to these facts. You can also Dr Prochazka for her PowerPoint presentation;  and

2. The socio-economic studies you claim show that an unchanged TAC will not result in job losses and other adverse socio-economic consequences. In this regard, we are most interested to understand what will happen - socio-economically that is - when lobster stocks plummet to below 3% of pristine and area closures are required or when TAC cuts of upward of 20% are required (or does the department's new "science" show that lobster stocks are healthy?). What will happen to the WCRL industry when WWF-SASSI, which is now almost obligated to, list WCRL on its red-list and what will happen if north American markets close their doors to SA lobster because of sustainability concerns? Will this not lead to massive job losses and the effective shutting down of the lobster industry? Or did you you not bother to consider these socio-economic considerations?

Unfortunately, this is the result when political expediency is allowed to trump science, the rule of law and rationality. And it is happening all too often now. The ball is now urgently in the WCRL Industry's court. Will industry move to protect the resource and its right holders and the thousands of jobs it sustains? Watch this space. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Biodiversity Amendment Bill Passed

The Environmental Affairs Portfolio Committee today passed an amendment bill to the Biodiversity Act. In supporting the Amendment Bill, Gareth Morgan, the DA Shadow Minister on Environmental Affairs stated the following in Committee:

"An excellent new amendment we present in this Bill today is a legal mandate for the issuing authority of licences and permits to defer a decision to issue a permit if the applicant is under investigation for contravening the Biodiversity Act in relation to a similar restricted activity. Take for example the case of Dawie Groenewald who faces over 1700 charges for among other things racketeering, money laundering and dealing in rhino horn. He was after being arrested able to apply for new permits. The magistrate did initially prevent certain activities, but the period expired, and the issuing authority did not have any legal basis to not issue new permits upon application despite the investigation not having been concluded. The amendment in this Bill would prevent a similar situation in the future.
With the intention of improving our country’s credibility and reputation at the Convention of the Trade in Endangered Species, this Bill provides the scientific authority, already provided for under the existing Biodiversity Act, with a legal mandate to assist the Department with the scientific work regarding the regulation of species to which an international agreement on international trade is applicable.  If this country is to pursue an application for the trade in rhino horn in the future, this scientific authority will aid in improving the standing of South Africa at CITES."

During the course of the Committee's deliberations on the Draft Amendment Bill, the Department of Environmental Affairs sought to sneak in a tiny but important amendment pertaining marine biodiversity and in particular sought to empower the Minister of Environmental Affairs to make regulations aimed at regulating the Boat Based Whale Watching and White Shark Cage Diving sectors under the Biodiversity Act.

Feike advised that the attempt to sneak such a provision into the Draft Amendment Bill would be unlawful for the following reasons:

1. Procedurally, any proposed amendment must be subjected to public comment in terms of PAJA. Failure to do so in one or more of the prescribed consultative procedures would be unlawful and contrary to the provisions of the Constitution

2. The proposed amendment essentially seeks to undermine the Western Cape High Court's finding against the Minister of DEA in Airjaws Africa CC v The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs & Others (Case No. 18839/2011). Although that case is presently being appealed, the judgement is quite clear on the fact that the Minister of DEA does not have the authority under the Marine Living Resources Act to regulate the WSCD and BBWW sectors. Not only does this authority escape the Minister of DEA under the MLRA, more fundamentally, the judgement holds that it is certainly not clear that the President sought to give the Minister of DEA this authority under the 29 January 2010 Proclamation. 

3. There are presently regulations regulating BBWW and WSCD, which were promulgated under the MLRA. The legislature cannot permit the creation of public confusion which will certainly result should there be two sets of laws regulating these sectors; one under NEMBA and another under the MLRA. Further, the legislature would be acting in violation of section 97 of the Constitution and the separation of powers doctrine pertaining to the President's Constitutional authority to transfer functions and powers to any member of the executive he sees fit. 

4. In addition, the proposed amendment would certainly be unlawful for the following reasons as it directly conflicts with sections 1, 3(3), 4 and 77 of the MLRA, read with the current BBWW and WSCD Regulations: 

4.1 With respect to sections 1 and 3(3) and 4: Section 1 defines "fish" to include sharks, whales & dolphins ( ie. mammals). Section 3(3) makes it plainly clear that the MLRA applies to all fish in the sea. Section 4 stipulates that -

"If any conflict relating to marine living resources dealt with in this Act arises between this Act and the provisions of any other law, save the Constitution or any Act expressly amending this Act, the provisions of this Act shall prevail".

4.2 With respect to section 77: There are presently regulations in force which have been promulgated under section 77 of the MLRA which regulate the BBWW and WSCD sectors. 

5. Finally, clause 97(1)(dA) could be lawfully included in the amendment bill only if - 

5.1 A proper and lawful public consultation process is undertaken;

5.2 The President repeals his Proclamation of 29 January 2010 and specifically authorises the Minister of DEA to administer and have the applicable powers to regulate the WSCD and BBWW (and Dolphin) sectors; and

5.3 The MLRA is amended which will in itself require a separate public consultation process to permit clause 5.2 above. 

In the end, the problematic amendment was not included in the final Amendment Bill as all members of the Portfolio Committee agreed with the DA's submissions.

SAS Africana will NOT Sail

Feike has been advised that the SAS Africana will now not sail today and in fact may not sail at all. What is almost certain is that the combined arrogance and utter incompetence of DAFF and the Navy will mean that this final pelagic research cruise will have to be abandoned. 

The abandonment of the cruise will certainly result in a substantially reduced pilchard TAC for 2013 and this will necessarily result in job losses in pilchard factories and on purse seine vessels. In addition, those that will be lucky enough to keep their jobs should expect lower catching bonuses as a result of a reduced catch limit. 

We can only once again blame this debacle on the increasingly destructive and incompetent Minister of Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Her failure to act as a responsible Minister and fulfill her legal obligations under the Marine Living Resources Act has meant that repeated offers by the pelagic industry to pay for and conduct the final research cruise with an industry sponsored vessel have been spurned. 

There is little doubt that the Minister's conduct is an affront to good governance and would amount to a violation of the objectives and purpose of the MLRA and industry must surely consider suing her for losses. But she should also be held morally liable for the socio-economic hardships that will result once people start losing jobs in the pelagic industry. 

It is incredible how this ANC-led government has been allowed to comprehensively ruin economic sector after economic sector; from mining, to agriculture and fisheries... and that is just in the past few months.

Minister Claims TAC Allegations are "Lies"

The Business Day this morning reports that Minister Joemat-Pettersson's response to Feike's allegations  against her that she irresponsibly and unlawfully interfered in the determination of the 2013 lobster TAC is that these are just "lies". She fails to substantiate why these allegations are "lies".

Of course the SA public is regularly met with such a standard response by government hacks and ministers when they are found out to have done something wrong. Its "LIES" I tell you! We await a statement alleging racism as their defence too. 

If our allegations of irresponsible and unlawful interference are all "lies" then perhaps the Minister should assist with the truth by explaining what the TAC for the WCRL fishery is and why it has not been announced with less than 24 hours to go the start of the season for all fishing zones south of Zone A? The commercial lobster fishing season for Zone A (Port Nolloth) actually commenced on 15 October! 

We note that bizarrely the recreational TAC was published but no commercial TAC for the lobster fishery. And as everyone in the industry knows, the TAC for the WCRL fishery is determined at a "global" level first - ie the entire TAC is determined for all sectors (commercial, small-scale, recreational and interim relief). Each sector is then allocated a proportion of the global TAC. In other words, one cannot set the recreational TAC without having set the TAC's for the other sectors in the WCRL fishery as well. 

If one considers the recreational TAC, it remains unchanged at 183 tons, which was a surprise to the recreational fishing sector representatives as they were under the impression that the TAC would be cut by about 9%. Their fishing days have been reduced from 67 days last season to an effective 57 days for the current season commencing on 15 November 2012. 

In fact the initial indications and discussions were that the TAC would be reduced by 20% because of massive illegal fishing attributed to the interim relief sector. If we recall, fishing by this sector was halted earlier this year because of massive fraud and illegal fishing. The Department, we understand, puts the quantum of illegally harvested lobster at about 8,000 tons (cf to a TAC of 2425 tons). 

We also understand that the current Acting DDG of Fisheries (in his capacity as the authorised official to determine TAC's under the MLRA) signed off on the WCRL TAC on 29 September 2012, directing a 9% cut in the commercial lobster TAC. So, Minister where is this TAC determination? Why has it not been published? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Africana May Sail on 14th

Feike understands that the SAS Africana may sail tomorrow (14 November 2012) but the vessel has  not been fully repaired. We understand that a replacement fuel pump or filter has not been installed. 

We are told that she will sail tomorrow because of the intense pressure on the Navy to get the final 2012 pelagic research cruise back on track. However, our advice is that she will almost certainly have to return to port within a week for further repairs. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Abalone TAC Remains Unchanged

The abalone TAC remains unchanged at 150 tons despite scientific advice that the abalone fishing Zones A to D (Gansbaai to Kleinmond) must be closed to fishing if any recovery in abalone in these zones is to be achieved.

The Minister once again ignored scientific advice and kept the TAC unchanged at 150 tons. It is also understood that poaching continues to escalate at alarming levels.

Minister Interferes in Lobster TAC

Feike has learnt that the Minister of Fisheries directly interfered in the setting of the lobster TAC by acting contrary to the critical West Coast rock lobster recovery plan. 

Although much vaunted in Parliament as part of the department of fisheries' "successes", the implementation of the West Coast rock lobster recovery plan and the lobster Operational Management Procedure ("OMP"), has essentially been tossed out of the window by the Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. 

Feike has been informed that the Minister's commitment to the wanton destruction of our fisheries sector continues with apparent gusto. 

Durring last week, and subsequent to months of consultations and discussions between the Department's scientists and managers and the West Coast rock lobster industry association (representing  commercial and artisinal fishers), the recreational fishing sector and the "interim relief" sector, it was agreed that a 9.6% cut in the lobster TAC is required to ensure that the fishery is able to recover from the present appalling levels to slightly less appalling levels over the next decade. 

Lobster biomass is presently at about 3% of pristine. The recovery plan seeks to re-build stocks to a shocking 5% of pristine in the next ten years. 

Despite reaching consensus, we understand that one right holder (yes, 1 right holder in a sector of more than 1000 right holders) was unhappy and approached the Minister directly. We are informed that the Minister then intervened and instructed an official at DAFF to not amend the lobster TAC for the 2012-2013 season. 

The consequences of this egregious and irresponsible conduct are substantial and long-term. The effective abandonment of the OMP and recovery plan will mean that subsequent lobster TAC's will have to reduced by 15% and more for sustained periods. This will almost certainly result in adverse socio-economic consequences, including job losses and increased coastal poverty along the west coast. 

SAS Africana Still in Port

Despite protestations during the November 6 briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries by Rear Admiral Teuteberg that the damage caused by the apparent minor error of getting sea water into the fuel tanks(!!) would be repaired by Thursday last week (and then by Saturday), it now emerges that the vessel will not be repaired and ready to sail for at least 2 weeks which will almost certainly result in the abandonment of the critical small pelagic year-end cruise.

Rear Adm Teuteberg addressing the Portfolio Committee on 6 November 2012

The failure to conduct this research cruise will certainly result in a substantial TAC reduction which will result in job losses in the pilchard and anchovy sectors. 

Feike also understands that under the command of the Navy, the SAS Africana has become rat and cockroach infested. Showers on board the vessel no longer work. Naval and DAFF officials barely have a working relationship in place. The Navy requires a number of additional crew on board resulting in the Africana carrying more than 60 people. She normally carries about 50 crew and specialists researchers on a research cruise. The additional crew means that a number of researchers and scientists now sleep on the floor. Coupled with the filthy state of the vessel and the lack of a working relationship with the Navy, we understand that a number of researchers are refusing to continue on board the vessel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are the Patrol Vessels Back at Sea?

There were no patrol vessels bobbing about in Simonstown Harbour yesterday and one of the patrol vessels was seen stopping an I&J trawler (the Blue-Bell we think) yesterday off Cape Point and undertook a routine boarding and inspection. 

That is excellent news.

SAS Africana is Towed Back to Port

After having been at sea for only some two weeks, the SAS Africana which was busy with the critical  pelagic research cruise, was towed back to Port with main engine problems last night (4 November).

The vessel is still being operated under the command of the Navy.

PC Meeting on Long Term Fishing Rights 2013

The Department of Fisheries will provide the Fisheries Portfolio Committee with a briefing on its proposed plans to allocate commercial fishing rights during 2013.

The briefing is scheduled for 9am in the Marks Building, M514, Fifth Floor.

This BLOG has repeatedly stated that there is simply no way that the Department of Fisheries will be able to allocate fishing rights by December 2013 given that they only woke to this obligation earlier this year. The Department's proposed timetable which will be presented to the Portfolio Committee confirms this.

Here is the Department's proposed timetable for the allocation of long term fishing rights in the KZN prawn trawl (20 applications estimated / 7 rights available for allocation), squid (500 / 100), hake handline (250 / 50), oyster (300 / 145), mussel (50 / 7), traditional line fish (2000 / 450), tuna pole (200 / 200) and demersal shark (50 / 23) fisheries.

While the timetable and the time allocations particularly can at best be described as unrealistic (perhaps because there is no person presently at DAFF who oversaw or managed a rights allocation process previously), the most glaring and legally fatal anomalies are the failure to make provision for an adequate public consultation process for the amendment of the 8 present separate fishery policies and the General Fishery Policy, the possible amendment of the 1998 Fishery Regulations and the Marine Living Resources Act and obtaining the requisite Cabinet approvals on each of the 8 final fishery policies (and amended General Fisheries Policy).

The proposed "road map" above does not take into account that no less than 6 months is required to comprehensively analyse the current the fishery policies and what amendments are required to the current policies and the General Fishery Policy. Once these changes are identified, the draft amendments need to be Gazetted for comment. A minimum of 30 days is required for this and in the case of artisinal fisheries, such as line fish, oysters and mussels, a substantially longer consultation period is required. In 2005, the draft policies were presented to fishing communities in more than 50 towns, villages and cities along the coast.  

Once these consultations processes are completed, the department will have to digest the public comments and proceed to finalise the policies. At this stage, the Department will then have to commence with the amendment of the Fisheries Regulations based on the accepted amendments to the current fishery policies. Draft amendments to the Regulations will have to published for comment in the Gazette. Once again, a minimum of 30 days is required for the consultation process. 

Once amendments to both the policies and Regulations have been identified and finalised, the Department will have to obtain Cabinet approval for the amendments to the fishing policies (as Cabinet had approved each of the current policies back in 2005, Cabinet alone can approve amendments to them under Section 86 of the Constitution). The Cabinet approval process will add no less than 3 months to the process. 

In addition, the timetable refers to an "economic sectoral study" having been completed. As far as we are aware, the last time such a study was undertaken was in 2000/2001. The recent performance measuring process was certainly not an "economic sectoral study". Furthermore, discussions between fishery managers and industry sectors subsequent to the publication of the performance measuring data confirmed that the analyses published by the department were broadly incorrect and generally useless. So the data from performance measuring process is of no analytical use at all. 

Further, the "road map" above tells us that by June 2013 the department will determine the size of allocations and TAC's/TAE's. How this is going to be done is beyond comprehension given that the size of allocations to individual right holders cant be determined BEFORE the number of successful applicants have been determined or before the determination of the 2014 TAC's/TAE's, let alone even prior to the receipt of applications! This is just another indication of how ridiculous and concocted this "road map" is. 

It is therefore plainly clear that the Department will have to re-write its road map, ensure that basic legal procedures in terms of the Constitution and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act are adhered to and notify right holders that rights will actually be re-allocated not earlier than March/April 2014. On that note, the Department may want to start preparing now for the allocation of fishing rights in sectors such as abalone and large pelagics as these rights expire in 2014. 

We have no doubt that the Department will as usual remain pig-headed and insist to the Portfolio Committee on 6 November that all fishing rights will be allocated by December 2013. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SAS Africana Commences Research Cruise

The SAS Africana sailed yesterday under the command of the Navy to begin the final small pelagic research cruise for the 2012 season. This research cruise will provide the scientific basis to determine the size of the 2013 pilchard and anchovy quota.

The Department of Fisheries also confirmed that by March 2013, the research and compliance vessels will once again be operated by a private service provider.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

That Ernst & Young Report: Our Analysis

So a lot has been said and DAFF has thrown its toys out of the cot about the leaking of Ernst & Young’s October 2012 Phase 1 Report into possible irregularities pertaining to the SMIT Amandla Marine vessel management tender. 

Before we go any further, it is important to point out two facts. One, the fact that the report's investigative ambit is limited to the Smit tender and did not include the unlawful allocation of the R800 million tender to Sekunjalo is important as it again shows the Minister’s hand and perhaps involvement in the latter. Ultimately, we will have to wait for the Public Protector to pronounce on this matter. 

Two, the E&Y Report was supposed to have been published on the department’s website according to the Acting DG of the Department. He made this clear on 2 October. The fact that it failed to appear there was a clear give-away that the report simply did not say what the department and its tainted Minister wanted it to say and in fact had said anyway in their prematurely bizarre press statement issued on 1 October 2012.

But what did the report – even if just preliminary – find? The short answer is ... nothing. 

Paragraph 145 states – 

Paragraph 146 proceeds to however note certain concerns but none of these concerns are substantive particularly if one considers the rather bizarre content of the paragraph 150 pertaining to “Outstanding Procedures”, which reads as follows – [You need to actually read it as “E&Y must still …”]

E&Y actually drafted a preliminary report about the procurement of SMIT’s services without even understanding the procurement regime applicable to the tender and extensions! This is incomprehensible. 

But it explains a number of E&Y’s “summary of findings” under paragraphs 146 and 147. For example, E&Y states that the Marine Living Resources Fund is simply a creature of statute established under the Marine Living Resources Act and that it is not a legal entity with powers to contract. Not correct. The MLRF is in fact a Schedule 3A Public Entity established under the Public Finance Management Act. 

The E&Y Report notes that the Agreement with SMIT is for 5 years while the State Tender Board prescriptions “as a rule” limit contracts to “two years”. Again, not correct. Directive ST 37 of the State Tender Board makes it clear that this is a “general rule” and that where contracts for a longer period are required, prior approval from the State Tender Board is required. Did E&Y determine if such prior approval was given? No they did not and they should have. In fact, both the original Agreement and the Extension Agreement signed in 2004, were not only submitted to the Office of the State Attorney for approval but were approved by the Chief Financial Officers of both the MLRF and the national Department of Environmental Affairs prior to them being signed by the DG of Environmental Affairs at the time, Dr Crispian Olver who was the Accounting Officer for the MLRF in terms of the PFMA. 

It is also important to note that the State Tender Board was done away with in January 2004. The Extension Agreements were signed in July and December 2004. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

DAFF - The Brand Destroyer

It is painfully clear from the recent fiasco involving Smit Amandla Marine and now Ernst & Young that associating yourself with the Department of Fisheries and its tainted Minister is certainly brand destroying.

Both the department and its Minister do not give a fig when publishing hugely damaging and defamatory press statements because they ultimately know they are above the law and are completely unaccountable. At the very worse, they will be taken to court and will lose a defamation case and the taxpayers will bleed the costs.

And these Mamparas will simply be promoted to another cadre facilitated post in the civil service no doubt with a "golden handshake". And some other economic sector of our damaged and battered economy will be made to suffer these fools.

DAFF Now Dumps Ernst &Young!

The Department of Fisheries issued a press statement today after it was again exposed as being guilty of deceiving the public. If we recall, on 1 October the DAFF issued a shocking press statement claiming that the Ernst & Young Forensic Auditors had produced a report confirming, inter alia, corruption by Smit Amandla in the award of vessel management tenders since 2000. The following day, at a press conference where this report was to be handed ceremoniously to our increasingly compromised Minister of Fisheries, the department ducked and dived and reduced the "report" to a "preliminary report" that mentioned some problems. No mention suddenly of corruption! 

Then, the full 200 page report found its way to the Democratic Alliance. And when the Department realised this today, they suddenly panicked realising their false claims about corruption against Smit   Amandle would now be exposed. 

And indeed they are. Feike has seen the report and the findings simply do not support any contention of corruption or maladministration. What is extremely clear however, is that the Department itself was the most significant obstacle in its own investigation, refusing to make documents available and certain staff members refusing to be interviewed unless the Minister instructed them. And it is clear that the Minister simply did not instruct these staff to avail themselves to the E&Y investigators! Now, why could that be, Minister?

The Department now bizarrely claims there are two 200-page reports as the one they have is substantially different to the one in the possession of the DA! Conveniently the department now states that - 

[It] notes recent developments as having gravely compromised the integrity of the investigation, including the confidentiality that we entrusted to Ernst & Young as an independent and respected forensic body. The department has lost faith in the work of Ernst & Young and as a result of these concerns, has resolved to put the investigation on hold until further notice.
 What rubbish! The department and its Minister are obviously not happy with the findings produced by E&Y. These findings did not match the outcome they had pre-planned as per their press statement of 1 October 2012.

So we will undoubtedly see this compromised Minister run around and try and find another auditing firm to undertaken another "investigation" that will produce (she hopes) the result she so desperately needs. Or the Public Protector can put an end to this miserable fiasco and publish her findings on the remaining to two complaints against Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Based on the findings of the first complaint alone, Joemat-Petersson should be removed from office.

Feike will be highlighting some of the key preliminary findings from the E&Y Report in a subsequent BLOG.

The State of Fisheries Management in SA

On 17 October 2012, Pieter van Dalen, the Deputy Shadow Minister for Fisheries (DA) addressed the Cape Boat and Ski-Boat Club on the state of fisheries management in South Africa. This is his address.

"By way of preface, it is worth situating the state of fisheries in South Africa in the broader global context. The world’s fisheries are the quintessential case of the “tragedy of the commons”, whose symptoms include persistent over-fishing and fleet overcapitalisation. This tragedy shows how individually rational agents will use a common resource in a socially irrational way because, when each agent exploits the resource, they ignore the negative externalities that this generates for other agents. The consequence is that the resource is over-utilised in a dramatic way, even though all those involved could change their behaviour (extract less) and leave everyone better off. Such a scenario raises notable political economy challenges in developing country-specific pathways of reform.
The World Bank reports that despite growing evidence of success in selected fisheries, less than two percent of the world’s fisheries have actually undergone effective reform because of these challenges. “It is estimated that the world’s fisheries could generate at least US$50bn per annum and the economic benefits generated could be much higher if management systems were established to enable investment in growing this important economic sector in a sustainable manner”. The trade in global seafood and fish products is worth more than R480 billion annually according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Importantly for South Africa, fisheries are crucial for enhancing economic growth and alleviating poverty as we have significant fisheries assets – one of the top 5 producers in Africa.
In 2011, South Africa’s commercial fishing industry was worth at least an estimated R5.54 billion, landed 498 000 tons of fish and presently employs approximately 30 000 people directly in full and part time jobs. Investments in fixed assets have an insured value of approximately R12bn. More than 3000 commercial fishing right holders deploy some 1400 fishing boats each year in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The commercial future of the South African fishing industry is increasingly dependent on the sustainable utilisation and sound management of its wild marine living resources. However, accurate data on the fishing industry is increasingly less available in the wake of institutional dysfunction at the Department of Fisheries (DAFF). Without accurate and reliable socio-economic data it is impossible to properly regulate commercial or recreational fisheries. Regulation is particularly crucial in this industry as its long-run profitability is almost entirely contingent on fishing within a clearly identified ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY). But the MSY cannot accurately be established without continued research to establish the levels and viability of fish stocks.
In ordinary circumstances, DAFF would conduct annual research in this respect for each component of the fisheries industry. Once the MSY has been determined, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is established. The TAC provides the grounds on which quotas are then allocated. The situation is so bad that the Africana had to leave on the 15 th of Oktober 2012 for us to be able to set these TAC. This sadly did not happen and now there is a real chance of the TAC being halved. That would mean halve of income and half of the industry shedding jobs. This is of real concern and the industry had offered to assist. The minister is so stubborn that she will not accept the help. It is a recognised world practice that industry can help. It is estimated that the salaries lost in the pilchard industry (which will be cut by 50 000 M/Tons) will be R100 mil.
The anchovy industry (which will lose 180 000M/tons) will lose about R200 mil.
This is not counting taxes that are paid plus it will hugely escalate this country’s food security and especially poor communities which relies on Fish as one cheap source of protein.
Of course, circumstances are currently anything but ordinary, especially with research cruises only being undertaken under great pressure from the industry. Research vessels are tied up at Simon’s Town harbour under the auspices of the Navy, though the Algoa was recently handed over to the Department of Environmental Affairs to be manned by Smit Amandla Marine. This strange situation is attributable to the administrative bungling of an R800 million tender in November last year, infamously and prematurely awarded to Sekunjalo Consortium before being withdrawn. The contract is to operate and maintain state-owned research and patrol vessels. The next round of allocating commercial fishing rights in 16 commercial fisheries is due to take place in 2013 and 2015 respectively. But DAFF's 2009 review of industry performance (published only in 2012) has been woefully inadequate, littered with errors, including getting the number of rights holders in certain sectors incorrect. Further, DAFF has not undertaken any substantive measures to even begin preparing for these quota allocation processes, which take approximately two and a half years to properly prepare for.
To add to the general malaise, Small Scale Fishing Policy adopted by Cabinet wildly contradicts the findings and objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP). The policy calls for new entrants and additional quota holders to gain from the industry under the name of redress, but the NDP is opposed to this as it threatens the sustainability of the already depleted fish stocks. Moreover, the NDP emphasises that the allocation of quotas should be done in such a way as to ensure compliance, yet the department insists on allocating the interim relief lobster quotas, which have proved to be an illegal fishing racket. Small-scale fishing is not the solution to poverty and unemployment – the promise of communal fishing rights only fuels discontent. Finally, the allocation of more small-scale fishing rights (over against focusing on industrial fisheries development) will ultimately lead to fewer jobs being created.
The Fisheries Branch remains without a plethora of top and senior managers, including having been without a permanent DDG, head of Fisheries Management and CFO since at least December 2010.
Undoubtedly the greatest institutional challenges facing the sustainability of South Africa’s fisheries, then, are poor management, policy incongruence and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
In the current context of South Africa’s political landscape, it appears that the relevant politicians – namely Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson – do not actually operate under an incentive structure that encourages them to execute actions carefully computed by economists and policymakers that will make fisheries, and the communities that depend on them, better off. Certainly the last three years of fisheries management has witnessed the destructive effect of institutional dysfunction. It turns out we are not alone, though.
Economist James Robinson makes the important point that, globally, the number of metric tons of fish caught per fisher has fallen since the 1970s, from 5.25 tons in 1970 to about 3 tons in 2000, and this occurred despite considerable technical change. The World Bank report to which he refers is “the most canonical example that market failure proceeds unabated with little effective response from governments of from private agents. Indeed, only New Zealand and Iceland have managed to construct the type of rational fisheries regulation which would solve these problems.”  He goes on to point out that it is not enough, then, for economists to propose sensible solutions to fisheries management as these already exist. The problem is that the sensible solutions are not adopted because political forces are not aligned in the right way. It is currently not politically feasible for Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, for instance, to implement the optimal policies. She is more concerned with using her department as an instrument of political gain for President Zuma’s  Mangaung campaign than ensuring the sustainability of the fishing industry. And there are very few countervailing measures to stop her – not even three concurrent investigations into her conduct, repeated calls from the DA for her resignation and a damning exposĂ© in Noseweek.
Without an increasingly powerful opposition party and increased activism from civil society, the South African government will have perpetually little incentive to intervene in order to promote real efficiency in the fisheries sector."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Public 1 | Tina 0: Public Protector Report One

The first of three reports by the Public Protector finds against both the Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and her former Chief of Staff.

The full article is available on IOL. Here is an excerpt.

"The public protector has recommended that Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s former chief of staff must repay R420 000 for booking her boss into a pricey guest house. 
And the minister was slammed for displaying a “blank cheque attitude towards public funds” for not querying a booking at the Emperor’s Palace casino in Joburg. 
Thuli Madonsela has recommended in her report, seen by The Sunday Independent, that President Jacob Zuma “consider reprimanding” Joemat-Pettersson. She spent five nights at the 28A On Oxford guesthouse in Joburg, where the rate rose from R1 450 to R5 257 a night because of the World Cup. The department booked three rooms to accommodate her children and their nanny."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DAFF Alleges SMIT Amandla Corruption Again

There can be little doubt that the rushed, gaff-filled and defamatory press statement issued by DAFF on 1 October and its subsequent dishonest backtrack on 2 October 2012 now exposes the Minister and DAFF to a serious defamation law suit by Smit Amandla.

The statement issued on 1 October confirmed that an "Ernst & Young forensic report" confirmed that Smit Amandla was essentially found to be guilty of corruption. The opening paragraph of the 1 October statement reveals that,

"The Ernest & Young forensic report confirmed substantial evidence of irregular contracts awarded to Smit Amandla Marine (SAM) or different guises thereof since 1995 until 31 March 2012."

The statement then proceeds to allege gross violations of various South African tender and procurement rules and laws, which amount to corruption. 

Importantly, the statement refers to "the Ernst & Young forensic report". 

However, at a press conference on 2 October 2012 to which the media was invited to witness the Acting DG of the Department, Mr Sipho Ntombela, present the content of the report to Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the Department suddenly changed its tune. Mr Ntombela now refused to even mention the word "corruption" and instead referred to the "preliminary report" just "highlighting 'something' irregular that had happened". And the "Ernst & Young forensic report" suddenly became a "preliminary report" that could not be made public! So why invite the media to the handing over of nothing? And who hands over a "preliminary report" that just highlights "something irregular". And now its just "something"?

And why not make this "Ernst & Young forensic report" (preliminary or otherwise) available if it shows such blatant collusion and tender fraud? It cannot be confidential as the department quotes extensively from it in its 1 October 2012 statement. 

The conduct demonstrated by DAFF officials and its Minister in this matter is indicative of a desperate and urgent personal vendetta against Smit Amandla. But what would motivate such appalling conduct on the part of a Minister and certain of her staff? Why has she involved herself so deeply in the R800 million Sekunjalo tender debacle, leading defamatory and damaging accusations against Smit Amandla and defending Sekunjalo at every opportunity and even declaring them innocent of any wrongdoing before any investigation into the tender debacle had begun (remember her press statement of 21 March)?

We trust that the Public Protector's investigations and report into this matter will reveal the answers. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

West Cape News Reports on State of DAFF

The West Cape News reports on the state of the Department of Fisheries and its hopeless Minister of Fisheries.

The article reports that "Claims of the “imploding situation” at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) seem to have reached a new low with a DA MP saying he and Parliamentary Oversight Committee colleagues were deliberately deceived by the department’s officials last Friday."

Read the full article here.

Noseweek Article on the "Terrible Twins"

The September edition of Noseweek has an article on the terrible twins - the Minister of Fisheries and ANC cadre, Iqbal Surve.

The article states that "Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, is eager to favour a fellow ANC multi-millionaire, Dr Iqbal SurvĂ©, with a R1-billion tender opening a window on all that’s wrong with the Zuma government.

Her appointment and continued survival in government, despite her obvious incompetence and shocking manners, is widely attributed to her having positioned herself as the ultimate Zuma loyalist."

Click here for the full article.

Statement by DA on Transfer of the Algoa Research Vessel

The statement below was issued on 25 September 2012 by the Democratic Alliance.

A parliamentary visit to Simon’s Town Naval Base on Friday revealed that the state’s marine patrol and research vessels were going nowhere slowly, or so it appeared. But while the fisheries portfolio committee was being briefed by Navy and Fisheries officials, the Algoa sailed away from under our nose. 

In a bizarre twist of fate, Smit Amandla has been appointed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to take operational control of this research vessel. But this is the multinational company against which Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson claims she has prima facie evidence for corruption. They had held the contract to operate and maintain all state-owned marine patrol vessels for ten years until November last year The contract was controversially handed to politically connected Sekunjalo Consortium and then withdrawn under dubious circumstances. 

I have today written to the chairpersons of the Defence, Fisheries, and Environmental Affairs committees to call all three ministers to parliament to account for how this came about. They must also give an account of what the plan is going forward from here. I will also be submitting a number of questions to Minister Joemat-Pettersson:

  • Did the Memorandum of Understanding governing the arrangement between Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Navy provide for the transfer of the Algoa and the Africana to the Department of Environmental Affairs?
  • Why did officials wilfully deceive elected members of parliament into believing that these ships would probably not sail until the end of the year if provisions had already been made for their transfer back to Smit Amandla?

Reports indicate that this arrangement between Fisheries and DEA was made five weeks ago. Apparently the Africana is due to follow shortly. Meanwhile, officials sat poker-faced and lied to the portfolio committee claiming that none of the vessels were sufficiently seaworthy to carry out their functions. In a presentation to the Fisheries Committee on 11 September, the acting DG and the Acting DDG of fisheries failed to mention anything about the transfer of vessels to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Or they were lied to by their ministers. Just who is lying to who must be revealed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

MP's Deliberately Misled by Naval and DAFF Officials

It would appear that senior Naval and Fisheries officials deliberately misled and lied to members of the Portfolio Committee of Fisheries during their visit to Simonstown on Friday 21 September 2012. 

These officials appear to have deliberately misled and/or lied to the MP's with respect to the following - 

  • That Smit Amandla was re-appointed to take operational control of the Algoa research vessel. It is understood that the Africana will follow suite shortly. It appears that these procedures were put in place some 5 weeks previously. This despite the Fisheries Minister's bluster that she had prima facie evidence that Smit Amandla was involved in corruption and that the matter was being investigated by the SA Police. The Minister's statement is in fact still on the DAFF website; and
  • The status of the vessels. It is apparent that the officials deliberately painted a false picture of the state of apparent vessel disrepair and deliberately failed to inform the MP's about the fact that the Algoa was being sailed out of Simonstown harbour under the operational control of Smit Amandla crew probably while the MP's were in the harbour.

We must surely be gravely concerned that senior civil servants are able to willfully deceive elected members of parliament. We also point out that Fisheries officials led by the Acting DG and Acting DDG of Fisheries appeared before the Portfolio Committee on 11 September 2012 and during that presentation deliberately failed to mention anything about the transfer of vessels to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

We sincerely trust that the Portfolio Committee will urgently hold a special meeting where the senior Naval and Fisheries officials who were present in Simonstown before the Committee on 11 September 2012 are held to account and explain their deceit. We trust that the Portfolio Committee will report their conduct to the Public Service Commission and demand their dismissal. We cannot rely on the fisheries minister to act.

Breaking News: Research Vessels Under DEA

Feike has been informed that the Department of Environmental Affairs has taken back control of the fisheries research vessel, the Algoa. And the Africana will follow shortly. Both vessels have been removed from the naval registry and are back on the SAMSA civilian vessel registry. 

In what is a clear indication of how incompetent and damaging the fisheries minister has been, Environmental Affairs has been able to get the Algoa sea-ready and sailing in about 7 days. The Algoa actually sailed from Simonstown on Friday, 21 September 2012, the day the Fisheries Portfolio Committee visited Simonstown to inspect the patrol and research vessels. 

And in a further indictment of the destructive, petulantly childish and personally vindictive behaviour of the fisheries minister, Environmental Affairs got the Algoa sea-ready in a week under the crew and operational leadership of Smit Amandla - the company against whom the fisheries minister has launched a personal vendetta and laid (what we believe are fictitious) criminal charges.  

What this fiasco has demonstrated is that the fisheries minister's vendetta against Smit Amandla has cost and continues to cost South Africa its fisheries biological diversity. We continue to not have any fisheries patrols and we have lost critical research cruises. 

We believe that the fisheries minister ought to be held personally liable for the massive financial damage caused to South Africa's marine and coastal environment. She certainly has a case to answer.

And there is now little need or justification for the continued existence of the fisheries branch under the control of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, unless their mandate is to continue to destroy the South African commercial fishing industry. 

An Independent Opinion on Alternatives to the "Bredell Cull"

Environmentalist, Laura Law, wrote on Feike's Facebook page that she opposed the Western Cape government's decision to permit farmers to kill certain predatory animals (caracals and jackals) in a bid to protect agricultural livestock. Laura holds the view that there are alternatives to the present scheme of permits that authorise farmers to kill a specified number of these predatory animals.

Feike offered Laura our BLOG platform to publish her views on the possible alternative methods to the current predator management scheme implemented by the Western Cape government. Here are her views on the subject. We note that these views and opinions do not reflect the views or opinions of Feike.

The "Bredell Cull" commenced in July 2011 and came about after DA Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, allegedly pressured CapeNature into issuing 480 farmers with blanket permits to kill up to ten predators per day over a six month period. This was described by Dr. Bool Smuts of the Landmark Foundation as "the largest cull of bio-diversity ever sanctioned by a government entity in the history of the African continent". The permits collectively total close to 900 000 animals, consisting mostly of jackal and caracal. As justification, Mr. Bredell has asserted that estimated stock losses amount to R1.7 million per annum, and farmers have to carry these losses themselves as they are not compensated by the government for stock predation.

"Call and shoot" hunting (which has been prohibited in the past), as well as night hunts with the use of artificial lights, gin traps (which kill 20 non-target species for every target predator killed, and are banned in over 90 countries), trap cages, trained hound packs, and helicopters are now sanctioned methods of killing. Thankfully, farmers have recently agreed to cease using poison. According to research by the Landmark Foundation, alternative methods of predator management have proven to be more effective and significantly less expensive.

The most well known of these non-lethal methods is the use of Anatolian Shepherd dogs as livestock guardians. The Landmark Foundation, Cheetah Outreach and the De Wildt Cheetah And Wildlife Trust all run extensive programs in South Africa whereby these dogs are being introduced to farming areas experiencing losses due to predation. The effective use of these dogs is a result of an intensive and very specific training and socialisation process,centered around the dogs bonding with the flock, and starting before the dogs reach their third week of life. This is when the olfactory (smell) bonding and socialisation development period begins, and is the most important developmental stage in the sensory bonding process.

If applied correctly and with the necessary dedication of the farmer, an improvement of up to 90% in the control of predation can be achieved. Reported problems by farmers include the dogs chasing or killing lambs and other wildlife, and the dogs wandering away from the flock in search of the company of other dogs. Both of these elements are dealt with in the rigorous training and socialisation program and can be considered as a failure of the farmer rather than the dog.

A lesser known alternative involves the use of Alpacas, which belong to the Camelid family and are primarily fleece-producing animals. They originate from South America and are closely related to the Llama.

As with all Camelids, they are gregarious (social animals who live in groups), intelligent, hardy and possess a very strong herding instinct. They will instinctively run down an intruder and can use their front legs to stomp on it or their hind legs to kick. Males develop sharp fighting canines and both sexes will spit as a form of intimidation. They also sound an alarm in the form of a high-pitched sound which could alert the farmer to the presence of the predator.

These animals can reside with the herd permanently or be used intermittently and are particularly valuable during lambing season. It is essential that they are introduced to the flock at least 6-8 weeks prior to lambing.

Being ruminants and browsers, they do not require any additional feeds and will live off the veld with the sheep or goats. With a lifespan of 20-25 years and able to withstand harsh conditions and extreme temperatures, they are a good investment to any farmer.
In addition to their value as guarding animals they also offer an extra source of income to the farmer, yielding a high quality fibre with excellent thermal qualities and devoid of lanolin.Having a dry fleece means that maggots are not a problem and treatment in that regard is not necessary. Fleece quality is reported to be equivalent to cashmere, fetching prices of up to R300/KG.

They are a convenient guarding option to farmers, as no extra facilities are needed for their introduction and existing operations can continue as before. Australia has been utilising Alpacas for over 10 years and results show an increase in lambing percentage of 10-20%, and an improvement of 80-90% in stock losses. Alpacas are effective against caracal and jackal specifically, but their effectiveness with larger predators (such as leopard and cheetah) is unproven. The recommended ratio is 2 Alpacas to every 250 ewes on 250 hectares and that they run in pairs.

As flocks are still being bred-up in South Africa after their introduction 5 years ago, their availability is currently limited.

Donkeys can similarly be used to guard livestock and have even been used in parts of Kenya to guard cattle against lions, proving themselves very effective in chasing predators and other intruders from their territories. They are naturally more alert and aware of predators than cattle and will instinctively gravitate towards- and remain with- the herd. Donkeys are hardy animals, requiring no additional feeds or expense.

Mares are preferred to stallions, who may become aggressive during breeding. Mares are also extremely protective of their foals, so a mare with a foal would be an added advantage. Foals should be raised with the livestock they are to protect and kraaled with the livestock at night, where possible.

Switzerland has successfully used donkeys to protect livestock from the European wolf and lynx.

Once commonly used by farmers to protect livestock in the field, herdsmen have all but disappeared since farms became more extensive and labour cost and practices changed. Reverting back to the use of herdsmen would also be a great tool in the creation of jobs, and added incentives -such as profit sharing and partnerships- would mean a greater dedication and enthusiasm towards the safeguarding of the flock.

There are various collars available, either providing an alarm system, a physical barrier or a deterrent to predators.

The "Veldwagter" collar works with a motion-sensing device, which sends an alert to the farmer when there is excessive movement (fleeing from a predator) or after a prolonged period of inaction (if the animal dies). These need only be fitted to a few members of the flock. This system has been utilised by over 500 farmers, who reported reductions in stock losses of more than 90% on average.

Collars providing a physical barrier to the predator's bite operate on the premise that the predator will learn that collared animals are not easy prey. Predators such as jackal, may adapt their attack techniques to bite and kill livestock other than by asphyxiation, but reported losses have shown an 80-100% decrease with their use.

Bell collars have shown a mixed success rate. They are fitted to every member of the flock and make a noise if the flock start to flee. This startles the predator, who abandons the attack. These collars can also be useful in identifying individual problem predators. The collars can also be fitted with scent devices which also serve to deter predators. In addition to this, poison collars have also been developed to remove habitual livestock predators.

Predator-proof fencing can also be used to safeguard livestock, and agricultural fencing subsidies are available to farmers to offset the massive expense involved (around R15 000 per Km). Cats can easily clear these fences and it is imperative that regular patrols are undertaken to secure any breaches.

Live traps are devices which contain the animal without causing any significant injuries, allowing for the relocation of an offending predator or the release of a non-target animal. Over a period of 4 years, 17 leopards have been rescued in the Baviaanskloof area using this method. Captured leopards have been fitted with GPS collars in order to monitor their movements. In cases where the GPS information has proven that a specific leopard was indeed to blame for a loss, the farmers are directly compensated for that loss by the Landmark Foundation.

These traps have not proven to be successful with jackals,however. With almost every other species of problem predator, they have been highly effective and are strongly recommended by many organisations.

As all wild predators show preference to naturally occurring prey, rather than livestock, the stocking of a herd of indigenous prey (such as springbok) as a "buffer" species for predators to prey on has also be found to be effective. This could also provide an added income to farmers in the form of a tourist attraction.

Many other herding techniques, such as kraaling, are also effective in combating predation and are too numerous to detail in this article. A multi-pronged approach, using more than one of the methods listed, proves to be the most successful approach. A study by the Landmark Foundation showed a saving of R97 500 by a farmer after switching to non-lethal controls (in terms of lethal control costs and loss to predation).

The removal of apex predators, such as leopards, has created an imbalance in predator relations. This has led to the proliferation of secondary predators, such as jackal. Hunting certain species -the jackal in particular- has actually directly increased the population of these predators. When a dominant female jackal is killed, the remaining lower-ranking females all come into oestrus. This results in a dramatic spike in numbers. With continued persecution, the females are maturing at a younger age and litter sizes are increasing. In the 1980's, black backed jackal were reaching sexual maturity at 14 months and would have 3 pups per litter. At present, they are sexually mature at 7 months and are giving birth to 5 pups per litter. Kas Hammen, Executive Director of CapeNature, has admitted that hunting these animals is worsening the situation.

After 200 years of indiscriminate hunting by farmers, the fact that the problem not only persists but is growing exceedingly worse, should in itself be telling the farmers and government alike that this is not a viable solution. The government should instead be concentrating on developing and training farmers in existing non-lethal control methods as the alternative to a practice which is not only ineffective, but devastating to bio-diversity and the balance of our ecosystem. Dr. Quinton Martins of The Cape Leopard Trust has stated that 85% of our bio-diversity lies in the hands of farmers, meaning that responsible management on these privately owned lands is absolutely imperative if we wish to maintain any kind of ecological integrity in this country. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

South Africa: A Pariah Fisheries State

On 21 September 2012, members of the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries descended on Simonstown harbour to inspect South Africa's fleet of once state-of-the art but now abandoned fisheries patrol and research vessels. 

We provide the press statement issued this morning by the DA's Pieter van Dalen, a member of that Committee. What is apparent is that South Africa has collapsed from being a one-time leader in fisheries management into being nothing more than a pariah fisheries state, unable to undertake routine fisheries research and unable to protect our Exclusive Economic Zone as we are obliged to do under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. As the recent minor oil spill from the stranded Seli I indicated, we are also unable to ensure basic coastal and ocean pollution management and control. 

South Africa's fisheries management has been singularly decimated by the Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the minister of fisheries and without doubt the worst minister responsible for fisheries... EVER. During the past week, Feike understands that the Minister has gone on a month's stress leave and suspended and/or fired two more staff. It is understood the Fisheries Department's spokesperson, Selby Bokaba, has been suspended and the Minister's private secretary has been fired or suspended. At present, the department is without a Director-General, a Deputy Director-General, a plethora of top managers and a spokesperson. The Minister had recently also suspended her "special" adviser, Rams Mabote - not that his suspension weakened fisheries management in any way, though. 

The Department remains without any political or senior civil service leadership and there is less than 12 months to go before long term fishing quotas need to be allocated across 8 commercial fisheries. 

The press statement issued by the DA follows:

 A visit to Simon’s Town Naval Base on Friday revealed that the state’s marine patrol and research vessels are going nowhere slowly.
The patrol vessels have not once left the harbour since they were bestowed into the Navy’s care at the end of March. The DA warned that this would happen as far back as November last year. 
 The Navy argues that the vessels were not in sufficiently good condition to go to sea. Having seen the condition of the vessels for myself now, I can understand their concern. But the Fisheries department was equally defensive and argued that they operate under different standards. The Africana, for instance, spent 270 days at sea last year, leaving little time for maintenance. As far as they are concerned, qualified auditors had declared the vessels as seaworthy. However, it is clear either way that the Fisheries Department should have taken a keener interest in how the previous contract holders, Smit Amandla, were looking after these critical assets. It is also clear that the Navy see it as their mandate to patrol the shoreline and there was evidently a turf battle going on long before today’s meeting. In November 2011, Smit Amandla lost the contract they had held for the previous decade to operate and maintain these state-owned marine patrol and research vessels. 
But the R800m contract was then handed to politically connected Sekunjalo under dubious circumstances (currently the subject of a Public Protector Investigation). The DA ensured that the contract to Sekunjalo was withdrawn. But we also called for a plan to be established to ensure that the vessels still carried out their critical functions. The contract to Smit Amandla was then extended to the end of March 2012, but no clear handover plan was in place to ensure that the Navy received the vessels as a going concern. It was revealed at today’s meeting at Simon’s Town that DAFF and Navy officials were only made aware of the decision on March 22, 8 days before the end of the month. A MoU (and an associated Service Level Agreement (SLA)) was then drawn up, the details of which are not particularly clear (other than to state that the operation of the vessels would now be subject to the Defence Act (and their operations thereby classified). 
The MoU governs the arrangement for one year. This raises a number of critical questions which I will be putting to the ministers of both departments. First, the question of funding is crucial. As it stands, the Navy foots the bill for maintenance work, sends the invoice to DAFF and then waits to get paid. The Navy has essentially inherited an unfunded mandate. Moreover, the incentive to really invest in these vessels is unlikely to be high unless there is relative certainty that the vessels will be in Navy care for the foreseeable future. This raises the second question. What plan is in place to ensure the proper and effective functioning of these vessels beyond March 2013? Finally, research (for which at least three of the seven vessels are designed) is a civilian function. It is hard to follow the logic that would retain it under Navy jurisdiction. Patrols, however, can at least logically be assigned to the Navy, though the civilian officers that used to undertake those functions would now have to be retrained as Naval officers. The Fisheries Department should have had a clear plan in place. 
When the Sekunjalo tender was withdrawn, a new tender process should have been followed immediately. The problem could have been resolved by the end of 2011. Instead, thanks to Minister Joemat-Pettersson’s ineptitude, the Navy and DAFF bureaucrats have been handed a problem that shouldn’t have been theirs in the first place. With the Minister firing or suspending everyone in near vicinity to her, job uncertainty and staff morale must be at an all-time low.  
Unfortunately, I estimate that these ships are unlikely to leave Simon’s Town before the end of the year. Very few people can be blamed for this unacceptable state of affairs other than the Minister of Fisheries. She should, as on so many other occasions, have been the first to go.