Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fisheries Minister issues Statement on moving Fisheries to PTA

The Fisheries Minister today issued a statement in response to the statement issued by the DA yesterday about the proposed relocation of the fisheries branch to Pretoria.

In defending her proposal to move the fisheries branch to Pretoria, the Minister states that -

"Van Dalen's (DA Shadow Deputy Minister for Fisheries) claim that 80 percent of commercial fishing activity took place in the coastal region of the Western Cape was both untrue and unsustainable.

"Yes, historically the previous government concentrated commercial fishing in the Western Cape [and] created this artificial strength," she said.

In the process, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were under-developed and the Northern Cape completely ignored.

If the playing field was levelled and fisheries spread across the country, the Western Cape would represent far less than 80 percent of commercial farming.

It was also important to note that the fishing stocks were depleted in the Western Cape and resources were being spread to other parts of the country, including in the rivers for aquaculture."
The Minister's statement is so farcical and far-removed from reality that it boggles the mind! Her statement simply further confirms how removed she is from understanding fisheries management.

Is she suggesting that the "previous" government forced our commercial marine fish species to congregate in the waters off the Western Cape province and that is why commercial fishing is concentrated in the Western Cape (which she incidentally denies initially!).

Is she suggesting that by relocating the Fisheries Branch to Pretoria where all other national government departments are based, that somehow the fish will all decide to swim and live in waters off the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Northern Cape so that these provinces are not "ignored"? Is she suggesting that by relocating fisheries to Pretoria, her dysfunctional and failing department will miraculously succeed?

Minister stop being an national embarrassment!

The reason why 80% of all commercial fishing takes place in the Western Cape (and yes this is a fact which you cannot just deny because it does not suite your political ideology!) is because - wait for it - the bulk of all commercial fish species are found in waters off this province! Its not a Democratic Alliance conspiracy! And apartheid is not to blame either!

Blame evolution, God, global warming, ocean currents including that damn horrible Benguela Current which is just so darn productive with all that upwelling nonsense which keeps fish happy and unfairly discriminates against the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal!

So Minister, you cant "level the playing fields" and "spread fisheries across the country"! Perhaps, the Western Cape must start demanding "equitable" access to the Northern Cape's abundant marine diamond fields; And what about all that gold unfairly located in Gauteng- we want gold "spread across the country"!

And Minister, why are Western Cape based fisheries depleted now? Is it because your department has hopelessly failed to combat poaching of line fishes, lobsters and abalone? And if these fisheries are so depleted what are your doing to ensure their recovery? Your department's fancy plans and presentations to Parliament are completely silent on this. Are you planning to expand river-based aquaculture to such an extent that it would "level the commercial playing fields"?

What species of river fish are you going to farm in such large quantities and in which river systems? Are there markets for these species? Or don't you care or even know? Again, none of these plans are evident from any of your department's plans or presentations.

Do you know that South Africa's total farmed abalone production - which is by far the most valuable (and almost entirely located in the Western Cape!) has stagnated at about 1000 tons (worth more than R270 million annually), primarily because of demand stagnation? Our entire freshwater (ie rivers and dams) aquaculture production stands at a mere 1,200 tons worth a paltry R43 million annually.

Our commercial fisheries produced approximately 800,000 tons of fish in 2010, worth more than R5 billion of which some 80% were landed, processed in and marketed from the Western Cape.

Minister, short of convincing fish stocks to migrate to other provinces (is that not what Jimmy Manyi once suggested, albeit not about fish?), the fact is that the Western Cape will remain the heart and sole of commercial and recreational fishing in this country and no amount of foolish and ideologically warped thinking will change that.

Finally, the Minister fails to address any of the substantive criticisms raised about her ridiculous proposal to move fisheries to Pretoria. For one she does not explain how fisheries will be practically managed from land-locked Pretoria (even if all other government departments are based there - though none are responsible for fisheries); she is silent on the transfer of some 700 staff from Cape Town to Pretoria and related costs; she is silent on why this proposal is not in any of the department's multi-year plans or why she made no mention of it in her budget speech especially since the costs of such a move would be astronomical.

Or is this ridiculous proposal just a quick after-thought to detract from the Sekunjalo tender debacle and the many questions she must still answer?

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