On 30 April 2012, the Minister of Fisheries and her department published its findings on the fisheries performance review process which was conducted between 2009 and 2010.
Its key findings on black economic empowerment and "transformation" completely contradict the Minister's and the Fisheries Portfolio Committee's views on empowerment levels in the commercial and small-scale fishing sectors.
The performance review documents do however strangely refer to "commercial" and "limited commercial" fishery sectors. Unfortunately, these terms are significantly outdated and have no reference in our current law. The term "limited commercial" was included in fisheries nomenclature back in the July 2001 fisheries policy to formally and legally recognise small-scale or artisinal fishers in the abalone, west coast rock lobster, line fish, oyster, mussel, trek net and hake handline sectors. But this concept was superseded with the adoption of the 2005 General Fisheries Policy and sector specific fishing policies which instead categorised fisheries into management clusters (Clusters A, B, C and D) and delineated fisheries into either offshore or nearshore fisheries, with the latter exclusively reserved for artisinal fishers. It is inexcusable that the Department could make such a blunder (yet again).
Anyway, to the substance of the performance review data findings.
Nearshore Sector Data
Only right holders in the netfishery, lobster, hake handline and traditional line fishery sectors were required to participate in the performance review process. Abalone, KZN beach seine, oyster and mussel quota holders were not part of the performance review process. Only 85% of quota holders decided to participate in the process. Less than 30% of quota holders belong to recognised industry associations or bodies. This is perhaps why compliance levels are lower in the nearshore fishery sectors (especially lobster); why quota holders are unable to earn maximally for their fish as they have extremely limited market access and knowledge; and why poverty levels remain fairly high in coastal fishing towns.
A key finding is that small-scale quota holders who hold their quotas as individuals (as opposed to in corporations), earned substantially more and were economically better-off than their colleagues in close corporations with up to 10 members. This once again confirms that co-operative / incorporated entities and shared quota structures in small-scale fisheries are recipes for poverty and economic hardship.
Black quota holders: 72%. The Hake handline sector has lowest empowerment levels (30% of quota holders are black but see below) while the nearshore lobster quota is 93% black owned.
Permit Utilisation: 50%. A mere 19% of hake handline quota holders utilised their permits between 2006 and 2009. We are not told why this is so. In the most lucrative of the small scale fishery sectors - lobster - a shocking 61% of quota holders utilised their permits between 2006 and 2009. So why are more quotas being demanded and allocated in these sectors when utilisation levels are so poor? Did the reduced size of the quotas make harvesting economically unviable? Unfortunately, the department does not provide any analysis in this regard.
Total Turnover: R118,642,000
Total Investments: R29,550,000
Offshore Sector Data
The only offshore commercial fishing sectors that did not participate in the performance review process were the tuna long line and swordfish long line sectors (large pelagic sector). Of the 871 quota holders, 94% participated in the review process. 89% of right holders belong to a recognised industry body or association.
Black quota holders: 60,47%. It is worth noting that the two fisheries the Minister has regularly chastised as being "white" - hake trawl and small pelagics are 62.5% and 73% black owned, respectively. The lobster sector is more than 80% black owned. These figures undoubtedly confirm that the South African commercial fisheries are the most "transformed" formal economic sector in South Africa today. Calls for a fisheries charter and for "more transformation" are therefore clearly ill-informed and unwarranted. The two rounds of quota allocations in 2001 and 2005 have by and large achieved the critical and justifiable political objective of section 2(j) of the MLRA.
Black Directors: 63%. In 2004, the percentage of black directors on boards of companies stood at 10%.
Black Top Salary Earners: 49%. In the hake deep sea trawl sector, just under 70% of top salary earners are black. In the west coast rock lobster sector this figure is above 60% while in the comparative figure in the tuna pole and shark demersal sectors is less than 30%.
Total employees: 22,105 (2008)
Total Annual Wage Bill: R2,5 billion (2008)
Catch Sales: R4,2 billion (2008)