Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who Should be in Charge of our Fishing Harbours?

Section 27(1) of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 ("the MLRA") provides for the Minister of Fisheries to proclaim a harbour a "fishing harbour". Since promulgation of the MLRA in 1998, the Fisheries Minister has not proclaimed any harbour to be a fishing harbour.
All 12 of the current fishing harbours were proclaimed prior to the promulgation of the MLRA.

Section 26(1) of the Sea Fisheries Act, 12 of 1988, made identical provision for the declaration of fishing harbours. Although the two sections of the two Acts are identical, the MLRA was promulgated subsequent to the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in 1996. The Sea Fisheries Act was promulgated in an era of Parliamentary sovereignty and not Constitutional supremacy.

Schedule 4 (Part B) of the Constitution lists the regulation of, inter alia, pontoons, ferries, jetties, piers and harbours, excluding the regulation of international and national shipping and matters related thereto, as being a local government function.

International and national shipping does not take place in any of the fishing harbours. Fishing harbours are exclusively limited to recreational and fishing boat activities.

Given the parlous state of our fishing harbours caused by the increasing lack of resources available to the national department of fisheries, it is a most opportune time to seriously lobby for fishing harbour management and control to be handed to those local government authorities capable of managing the 12 fishing harbours. Where the local authority lacks the resources to manage a fishing harbour under its jurisdiction, section 155 of the Constitution places the obligation on the provincial government concerned to manage the harbour in question.

The inability by the national department of fisheries to properly and efficiently manage our fishing harbours has a direct and adverse impact on local tourism, crime, grime and general infrastructure decay.

We have focussed on Hout Bay Harbour to date, which is the largest and most important of the fishing harbours but it is in a shocking state of neglect and now a preferred thoroughfare for abalone and lobster poaching; the harbour is littered with abandoned and sunken vessels; crime within the harbour is so rife that unprotected vessels are stripped bare overnight; many of the fish processing buildings stand vacant and look derelict.

It is just sensible that local development plans (focussing on local economic opportunities, job creation, tourism etc) will best complement and support any regeneration strategy for the fishing harbours and communities adjacent to them.

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