Prof Mohammed Karaan of Stellenbosch University published an opinion piece in the Business Report ("Fish Catch can create jobs and sustain communities", 8 May 2012), which raises a number of pertinent issues related to the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Small Scale Fisheries Policy that require further elucidation.
We do not disagree with his analysis of the NDP and its intentions with regard to fisheries development. However, what I believe that he and many others including our current revolving door of civil servants in the department of fisheries do not fully appreciate is that South Africa has had a thriving and legally recognised small-scale commercial (or artisinal) fishery sector since July 2001. Prior to that a comprehensive socio-economic review of subsistence fishing of high value stocks such as lobsters and abalone found that subsistence fishing of high value stocks only increased poverty and illegal fishing as subsistence fishers were forced to sell their harvests illegally and because buyers knew this, substantially lower prices were offered. Subsistence fishing is a poverty trap. One need only look at coastal poverty and levels of underdevelopment in the Eastern Cape which has a de facto system of community subsistence quotas in place for abalone and east coast rock lobster.
There appears to be this convenient myth that commercial fisheries is only about the large offshore fishing sector and that the small scale fisherman has been forgotten. I repeat, it is a myth confirmed by simple analysis and understanding of our fishery sectors. South Africa has 22 commercial and small scale commercial fishery sectors, which are clustered into four categories for effective management in terms of the General Fisheries Policy of 2005 promulgated by Cabinet in terms of section 85 of the Constitution.
Clusters A and B comprise 15 of South Africa's most capital intensive offshore and midwater fisheries, including hake deep sea and inshore trawl, south coast rock lobster, patagonian toothfish, KZN prawn trawl, horse mackerel, tuna long line and our pilchard and anchovy fisheries, west coast rock lobster, hake long line, tuna pole and squid. These fisheries require large investments, employ some 27000 people, and are responsible for the bulk of the R12 billion in investments in vessels and factory infrastructure in fisheries. Black ownership averages 60% across these sectors with black ownership in the lobster and hake long line fisheries over 80%. These are figures confirmed by the department of fisheries.
Clusters C and D are reserved for artisinal or small scale fishers. Of the 3000 quota holders in the 22 commercial fisheries, small scale fishers are allocated more than 2200 quotas in high value, low investment requirement fisheries, such as west coast rock lobster nearshore, traditional linefish, abalone and hake handline fisheries.
The small scale fisheries policy that seeks to allocate quotas to so-called communities via co-operatives is neither novel nor a solution to poverty (as some civil servants and the Fisheries Minister would have us believe). Instead, community quota structures have been tried, tested and proven to have failed repeatedly in South African fisheries history both pre and post apartheid but perhaps most spectacularly in the late 1990's with the case of the South African Commercial Fishermans Corporation (SACF). It is incomprehensible that these lessons of failure are being ignored and willfully repeated. The SACFC fraud was perpetrated against more than 3000 artisinal fishers who to this day have never been compensated for their losses. It is perhaps mindful that people like Mr Andy Johnson who was directly involved in drafting the small scale fisheries policy (and an "adviser to the department of fisheries) and is an outspoken and ardent fan of the policy is a renowned "former" poacher, was connected to Hout Bay Fishing Industries (the largest syndicated poaching company in the history of South African fishing) and was a founding member of SACFC and the SACFC Holdings Company.
The small scale fisheries policy is contradictory to the objectives and intentions of the NDP and Vision 2030. The small scale fisheries policy will undeniably result in massive poaching of inshore fish stocks resulting in massive resource collapse, substantial community conflict and infighting, not to mention fraud and corruption and will result in increased poverty. If one doubts these grave predictions, this is precisely what has resulted from the department's chaotic, corrupt and maladministered interim relief lobster quota process which is what is envisaged by the small scale fisheries policy. In addition, simply consider the failed "community quota" pilot project in Doring Bay.
Feike has repeatedly maintained that the small scale fisheries policy simply provides a second opportunity for a select few to once again line their pockets at the expense of poor coastal communities. We need simply ask if anyone of those who benefitted so substantially and unlawfully from the millions of rands earned from the SACFC quotas has been prosecuted or forced to account for the poverty caused and fraud perpetrated.
Postscript: It is noted with concern that the SACFC (Pty) Ltd which was in final de-registration since 2006, had its de-registration process cancelled on 18 April 2012 according to CIPC records which is about the same time the draft policy was submitted by the Fisheries Minister to Cabinet for approval. Its registered address is the attorneys firm of Davout Wolhuter & Associates. Its current active directors include Davout Wolhuter who was implicated in the collapse of the SACFC cooperatives. SACFC is back in business according to the CIPC.