The Democratic Alliance has issued the following statement.
More than 5000 workers in the local hake industry face unemployment if the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) continues to ignore the requirements of the international Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Major retailers in key SA export markets only accept products certified by the MSC. South Africa’s hake industry stands to lose its certification as Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s department is failing to ensure compliance to key MSC requirements.
Most pressing of these is the fact that since the beginning of 2012, there have been no observers placed on hake fishing vessels and that patrols intended to inform the total allowable catch (TAC) are not being conducted as required.
Minister Joemat-Pettersson have given repeated assurances that research and observer programmes will not be negatively affected by the shambles that her department has made of the tender for fishing patrols and the current memorandum of understanding for the navy to take over certain functions with regard to patrols and observer programmes.
In a performance report presented to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries by the DAFF yesterday, the Department has, however, confirmed that March/ April survey has been cancelled and that the scientific observer programme has been terminated. The Department’s own briefing indicates that this will have “an immediate impact on the TACs for 2013” and will have a “long-term negative effect on the industry by compromising its MSC certification”.
The industry annually produces around 110 000 tons of fish and generates more than R5 billion in economic value. Half of this is generated through exports that are now in jeopardy because of the questions raised around our MSC certification.
I will be submitting parliamentary questions to ascertain when observers will again be placed on vessels and what steps the department is taking to ensure continued MSC certification for South African fisheries.
With more than a quarter of South Africans currently unemployed, this government should be doing everything it can to protect and promote labour intensive industries. Minister Joemat-Pettersson appears increasingly incapable of resolving the issues in her department which are placing key industries at risk.