Monday, June 25, 2012

Fisheries Minister Suspends DG

The Minister of Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has suspended her Director-General, Langa Zita according to

The reasons for his suspension are not yet known. The Minister had suspended her Acting DDG for fisheries in early May.

To date, the Fisheries Minister has not had the courage or decency to explain why she suspended the Acting DDG of Fisheries.

Probably just another ANC-cadre factional battle that continues to constrict the South African civil service into complete paralysis.

Friday, June 22, 2012

MSC Suspends Mackerel Fisheries

The MSC announced in April that the certifiers for seven MSC certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic ocean have had their MSC status suspended.

The suspension notice follows two years of catches above the scientific advice as a result of a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets and the breakdown of international agreements and negotiations aimed at managing the stock. In July 2010, the certified fisheries were notified that – in order to maintain their certification and ecolabel – total catches in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery would need to be brought back under an internationally agreed management regime. This included the catches from countries outside the certified fleets. The deadline for implementing that notification expired on 31st December 2011.

For more on this, click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

DAFF Admits it Bungled the Observer Programme

According to the Cape Times this morning, DAFF now admits that the observer programme was terminated because " was simply a result of financial and bureaucratic problems." 

So, "simply" because of incompetent staff who are unable to plan and execute basic fisheries management functions, South Africa's hake trawl fishery may have its MSC status suspended. And if suspended, we will no doubt lose access to these competitive and lucrative markets. 

It is truly amazing that such an admission can be so glibly made without consequence. The observer programme was terminated in 2011, some 12 months back! Did no one at DAFF bother to think that they should address the "financial and bureaucratic problems"? Why are they only attending to it now that Feike, Industry and the DA have raised a public storm about the massive socio-economic consequences of losing MSC status? 

And before they retort with some dishonest plea about how they have been attending to these "challenges" (ie. incompetence) over the past few months, we need only examine the current financial year's budget and strategic plan to confirm that the so-called "financial and bureaucratic problems" affecting the observer programme are not even mentioned so it is unclear how these "financial and bureaucratic problems" will be addressed now. Further, the department's own Fourth Quarter report to Parliament (ref Pg 47 of the Report) confirms that "the scientific observer programme has also been terminated". Period. This report to Parliament makes absolutely no mention of any alleged "financial and bureaucratic problems" and importantly makes no mention of how the observer programme will be re-instituted. It simply confirms that the observer programme was done away with. 

How is it possible that DAFF and its Minister's only excuse for this industry-threatening bungle is that they are incompetent? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Namibia's Fisheries Minister Ignores Scientists

The Namibian newspaper reported on Friday 15 June 2012 that Nambia' Fisheries Minister, Mr Bernard Esau, elected to ignore the advices of his hake scientists and the fisheries advisory council and allocated substantially higher hake and monkfish quotas than recommended.

Nambia's hake scientists recommended a hake TAC of 130,000 tons; the advisory council recommended 140,000 tons and the Minister decided to set a TAC of 170,000 tons for hake. With respect to monkfish, the Minister added 4,000 tons to the 10,000 ton recommended TAC. 

The Minister justified his decision essentially because he held the view that catches were good during 2011, companies had to be able catch through the year and new fishing quotas were allocated in both the hake and monkfish sectors.

The TAC increases come in the face of continuing concerns with regard to the integrity of fisheries management in Namibia. It was recently reported how a politically connected Spanish businessman and fishing magnate openly bragged about his close friendship with Namibia's political elite. José Luis Bastos, a Spanish fishing magnate, was blunt: “We are over-catching hake, and I don’t have a problem telling the [fisheries] minister this.”

And Namibia's hake industry association remains concerned about erratic catch rates. The Namibian Economist reported in May that the allocation of the new quota which runs from 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2013 with a closed season during October, is full of uncertainty due to various factors including the sustainability of the sharp increase in the TAC.

And perhaps something for the South African fisheries department to note very clearly, the Namibians are desperately seeking to penetrate the European and Australian markets but without MSC certification, access to these lucrative markets remains a struggle. 

Mr Matti Amukwa, chairperson of the Hake Association of Namibia, is on record as stating that  "we need MSC certification if our industry is to take full advantage of those markets as they are very sensitive to the issue of Responsible and Sustainable Fisheries." Mr Amukwa noted that they needed to move away from their current Asian market bias, especially China, as it wanted only "raw products and are not yet prepared to buy value added fish such as hake."

So while Namibia desperately seeks out access to the lucrative European market and away from the cheap Chinese market, South Africa's fisheries department is happy to publicly state that South Africa's hake trawl fishery should not be overly concerned with MSC certification and should instead look to China. 

Namibia's fisheries minister should however cease to ignore sound scientific advice if his country is to attain MSC certification for its hake fishery and access to EU, Australia and North American markets.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

DAFF Changes its False Tune on MSC

After the mind-numbingly stupid comments on MSC by the Department on Thursday stating that the hake trawl fisheries must simply look for other markets if the MSC cancelled South Africa's hake MSC status, the Fisheries Department has now panicked and suddenly changed its false tune. 

On 15 June 2012, the Department issued a statement suddenly recognising the importance of the MSC certification and the need for an observer programme. Suddenly the relationship between DAFF and the MSC is "solid and strong". On Thursday, the department held the MSC in contempt stating that "[i]t is worth noting that MSC is not the only eco label — there are also others ... ". But on Friday, the relationship is "solid and strong". The levels of dishonesty are appalling. But it also shows a Department and Minister completely confused and unable to stitch together a vision or plan that lasts more than a day. 

Here is the department's full statement issued on Friday 15 June.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) would like to reassure the fishing industry as a whole – owners and workers alike – that it is committed to putting the marine research vessels back at sea and the required scientific observer programme in place in a bid to retain the hake deep sea trawl sector Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.A procurement process is underway to contract a service provider for the scientific observer programme – to monitor each vessel of the fishing companies going out to sea for fishing purposes - to ensure compliance and prevent possible over-fishing. The procurement process is expected to be concluded by end of August this year. 
As a responsible government department, cognisant of the importance of fishing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and job creation, the department will continue to do everything in its power to meet all obligations that will ensure the attainment of the highest levels of integrity in the industry.Part of this endeavour is to continuously engage with external and internal stakeholders in the fishing industry in order to ensure that the department meets or exceeds its targets for each and every fishing sector. 
DAFF is committed to ensuring that it meets all the requirements needed to ensure that the fishing stocks get the best value for money and that access to all markets, old and new, are guaranteed.Having the fishery certified by the  Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) does not only help the department to improve its own systems of managing particularly hake trawl fishery, but it also ensures that it meets the highest standards of sustainable management of the stock and add value to it. The relationship between DAFF and the MSC is solid and strong. 
The Fisheries branch of the department is proud of the fact that it has consistently attained an average of 83% score in all previous assessments, and because of this high regard for this eco-label it is currently in discussions with the hake long-line sector and has done preliminary analysis of this sector in preparation for an application for certification.Daff has been locked in discussions with representatives from MSC during the last month as part of their bi-annual country surveillance and we are awaiting the assessment report due next month. 
The department was disappointed to learn of the media statement issued by the DA’s Pieter van Dalen quoting yesterday’s BusinessDay newspaper, but ignoring today’s edition of the same newspaper which sought to allay the fears of the fishing industry.In the discussions that the department has had with the industry there never was anything mentioned about the possible loss of 5 000 jobs. This figure, or any other figure of job losses, remains a thumb-sucked imagination of Van Dalen.
We note the Department's disappointment with regard to the DA statement on the possible loss of jobs should the trawl fisheries lose MSC certification. Rather than being disappointed with the DA statement, the Department should instead be appalled by the foolishness and irresponsibility of its "spokespersons". 

Statements issued by the Department last week alone indicate the levels of contempt its officials have for sustainable and legal fisheries management. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Eihatsu Maru Did Not Require a Foreign Fishing Vessel Licence? Really?

The Department of Fisheries' Lionel Adendorff issued a bizarre statement on 14 June 2012 stating that "[f]ollowing recent highly irresponsible untruths and misrepresentations concerning the tuna longliner, the Eihatsu Maru, the Chinese-owned fishing vessel that ran aground in Cape Town last month, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would like to state for the record that vessel did not require or was not issued with a foreign fishing vessel licence in accordance with Section 39 of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 (MLRA), as it was not, as a prerequisite of this section,  “used for fishing or related activities in South African waters”.

Adendorff continues to state that an application for a "permit to enter South African waters was received, processed and granted to allow the Eihatsu Maru to use port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo, and it was valid from 8th of May until the 8th of June. An extension, that will expire in July, was also granted. DAFF is not responsible for the implementation of the Wreck and Salvage Act of 1996 (WSA) and can therefore not be held responsible for any salvage operations or its related costs.

It is therefore clear that those who mislead the public and confuse matters have no or little understanding of the MLRA or even the WSA and while this lack of knowledge is aimed at tarnishing the integrity and reputation of DAFF or its Ministry, it is rather a reflection of those who spread these fallacies."

As Feike issued the statement on our BLOG, he is clearly referring to us in this regard and that we have no understanding of the MLRA. 

As the Business Day editorial states today, Mr Adendorff's statement (with regard to another foolish statement by him) can only be described as "breathtaking in its stupidity" but also an indication of just how the provisions of the MLRA are being violated and misapplied by the Fisheries Department. 

Ok, lets breathe a bit here and acknowledge what Mr Adendorff admits to in his statement: 

1. He confirms that the Eihatsu Maru is a fishing vessel. No dispute here so the MLRA is applicable.  
2. That the MLRA is applicable to the vessel is confirmed by the fact that he states a "permit to enter South African waters ... was granted". It is not clear in terms what provision of the MLRA a "permit" was issued to a foreign fishing vessel.
3. He further confirms that the permit was granted to allow the vessel to use "port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo." Now, this is the crucial admission also because cargo refers to the many tons of tuna being transported by the vessel, presumably harvested on the High Seas. 

Ok, Mr Adendorff, this is where the reliance on a half decent lawyer would have prevented you making an absolute twit of yourself. The guy that edits this BLOG is a half decent lawyer who knows a little bit about the MLRA having provided half decent advice to a previous fisheries minister...So Mr Adendorff, its looking really bad for you.

How bad? Well Mr Adendorff not only confirms that the DAFF lacks even bad legal advisers, they confirm that they have just been allowing foreign fishing vessels into SA waters illegally! 

Back to the law. Right, what does Section 39 say? Section 39 (which is under "Part 6: Foreign Fishing" of the MLRA) states that - 

Foreign fishing vessel licences 
39. (1) No foreign fishing vessel shall be used for fishing or related activities in South African waters unless a foreign fishing vessel licence has been issued to such vessel.

So its very clear. A section 39 license MUST be issued to any foreign fishing vessel (ie the Eihatsu Maru) that is to be used for fishing or related activities in South African waters. Now Mr Adendorff states that the vessel was not being used for "fishing". Ok, let's accept that.

But Mr Adendorff states that the vessel had entered SA waters because it wanted to " use port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo."

So any half decent lawyer would then run his (or her) fingers through the definition section of the MLRA and look up what "related activities" is defined by law to mean. (Not looking very good for Mr Adendorff; not looking good at all.)

Found the definition for "related activities"! Its states (full definition)

‘related activities’’ include— 
(a) storing, buying, selling, transshipping, processing or transporting of fish
or any fish product taken from South African waters up to the time it isfirst landed or in the course of high seas fishing; 
(b) on-shore storing, buying, selling or processing of fish or any fish product
from the time it is first landed; 
(c) refuelling or supplying fishing vessels, selling or supplying fishing
equipment or performing any other act in support of fishing; 
(d) exporting and importing fish or any fish product; or  
(e) engaging in the business of providing agency, consultancy or other
similar services for and in relation to fishing or a related activity.

So, based on Mr Adendorff's admissions, Section 39 certainly applies because - 

1. The Eihatsu Maru is a foreign fishing vessel;
2. The vessel wanted to use SA port facilities for bunkering and stocking up on supplies (para (c) of definition); 
3. The vessel wanted to discharge its cargo of fish (para (a) - transshipping, processing and transporting of fish taken in the course of (presumably) high seas fishing); and
4. We can assume that because it wanted to discharge its fish, it wanted to to store, sell or process the fish (para (b) of the definition). 

So, Mr Adendorff, it does not look like we published anything that was "highly irresponsible untruths and misrepresentations". 

In fact, Mr Adendorff, you have now confirmed that the Fisheries Department has been allowing foreign fishing vessels into South African waters in clear violation of section 39 of the MLRA. And further, that your department's incompetence and lack of understanding of our fisheries laws has now forced tax payers to incur unnecessary costs because had you issued the correct licence and adhered to the provisions under section 39 of the MLRA to the Eihatsu Maru the Fisheries Department could have called on the guarantees that ought to have been provided or claimed from the vessel's insurer. 

Read This: The Business Day Editorial

If you read only one thing today (besides our BLOG of course) then read today's editorial in the Business Day.

EDITORIAL: Department at sea over licences
It is a wonder that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson survived Tuesday’s Cabinet reshuffle.

IF THE Springboks play tomorrow the way the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has handled its responsibilities of late, we are in for a hiding from England. The department has dropped the ball badly in a number of areas, most recently with regard to the commercial hake industry’s membership of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The suspension of SA’s annual observer programme, which entails sending independent scientific observers out to sea to determine the size and sustainability of the hake stock, means no MSC certification. And no MSC certificate means a significant number of customers, particularly in Europe, who have committed to buy only certified fish, will be forced to look elsewhere for supplies.

This is no minor issue for an industry that has suffered in recent years from a combination of fluctuating fish stocks and under-investment prompted by uncertainty over fishing rights.

Spokesman Lionel Adendorf’s glib response that losing access to much of the European market, which takes a share of SA’s hake valued at R1,4bn every year, will "give us an opportunity to look at new markets" is breathtaking in its stupidity.

Read the full editorial here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our BLOG Readership Increases

Our daily BLOG readership continues to grow! On 13 June, we recorded the highest single-day page-views yet. We now regularly receive 1000 visits a day with SA and US visitors the most regular readers.

Please remember to donate to our BLOG account so that we can continue bringing you the analyses of the South African fishing industry and the growing poisonous politics in which it tries to function!

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Minister Confirms Intention to Destroy SA Fishing Industry

The Business Day this morning confirms what we have been saying for some time now. The Minister of Fisheries has now confirmed that it is her intention to destroy the sustainability and economic well-being of the South African fishing industry and particularly the most lucrative hake trawl sector. 

The responses of the Fisheries Department's spokesperson to concerns that SA may lose its much vaunted MSC certification is indicative of a government completely out of touch with economic and market realities. The Department is essentially of the view that it does not particularly care about MSC certification, as there are other eco-labels and other markets so the hake trawl industry must just look for other markets and who the department is not concerned if industry profitability is affected. 

In other words, this government does not give a damn if South Africa loses access to vital export markets; if we lose jobs; if companies become less profitable (and thus pay less taxes and employ fewer people). And you dont just establish "new markets"! This is the fundamental problem with deploying ANC cadres into jobs requiring specialist knowledge. MSC certification does not only allow South Africa to sell its hake into the lucrative EU market, but it also ensures sustainable and responsible fishing, thus protecting South Africa's marine ecology. If the Fisheries Department and its Minister employed people who knew anything about fishing, they would also realise that it was MSC certification that protected the hake trawl industry from the fate that befell the non-MSC certified hake long line industry. This sector was forced to shift markets rapidly from the EU to the East (as the department now suggests trawled hake must do), and the result has been economic meltdown in the hake long fishery. In 2006, the landed value of the fishery was in excess of R250 million. By 2011, this value had declined to less than R110 million. 

If one compares the MSC certified hake inshore trawl and the non-MSC certified hake long line fisheries, one can understand how important MSC certification has been to protecting jobs and profitability. Both fisheries land approximately the same quantum of fish annually. However, company profitability in the inshore trawl fishery is some 7 times greater than in hake long line; investments in infrastructure (vessels and factories) by the inshore trawl sector averages R700 million while investments by the hake long line sector averages a minuscule R1,6 million. And when it comes to jobs, the average wage bill in the hake long line sector is R413,000 while the comparative figure in hake trawl is R57 million. 

So when the Fisheries Department denies that the loss of MSC certification will result in the collapse of the hake trawl fisheries and the loss of substantial jobs and a consequential increase in poverty, it is apparent that they simply do not have a clue what they are talking about. 

How is it possible that such levels of idiocy are allowed to continue to regulate the fishing industry? This government is so riddled with contradictions and incompetence it is beyond comprehension. On the one hand you have the destructive mentality of the Minister of Fisheries that is determined to destroy the commercial fishing sector, and on the other hand you have the Minister of Planning and his clever grouping of commissioners drafting a 400 page document to chart South Africa's future into a modern developed economy. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Did the Fishing Industry Miss the Boat?

So President Zuma finally did his mini-cabinet shuffle and despite all the corridor whispers, the Minister of Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, remains in her post. 

Yes, we can all turn to each other and demand to know how is this possible! This Minister has after-all single handedly moved to destroy the fishing industry. The answer perhaps is that the fishing industry has remained too silent; too reliant on quiet diplomacy in the face of a rabid anti-fishing industry Minister. 

Consider the fact that civil society stood up and demanded that the e-tolls in Gauteng be scrapped; took the government to court to assert their rights and won and then won again as the President was forced to sack both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Transport. 

Instead, the South African fishing industry has now forsaken the last possible Cabinet shake-up for the forseeable future faced with the prospect of the loss of MSC certification for hake; implementation of the small-scale fishing policy which will destroy substantial economic and ecological value; no observer programme; no research vessels; no fisheries patrol vessels; and absolutely no leadership at the fisheries ministry or at the Department. 

Business Day Report on Threat to Fisheries Jobs

Business Day this morning reports that SA’s commercial hake trawl fisheries could lose their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) membership next month, cutting the industry off from the lucrative European market and jeopardising about 5000 jobs.

The loss of SA’s deep sea trawler-caught hake export market — estimated to be worth half the country’s total R2,89bn a year deep sea hake market — would cause a price collapse as unaccredited fish would flood the South African market, said Tim Redell, chairman of Fish SA, an umbrella body of fisheries associations, yesterday.

Read the Business Day article here (Please note that the reference to the value of the pilchard and anchovy fisheries in the article is incorrect. These values should read R185 million and R573 million, respectively.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Lesson for SA's Fisheries Minister

The Economist (May 26th-June 1st) reports on the impressive recovery of a huge proportion of American fisheries, noting how a combination of reduced political interference, an emphasis on tenure security for quota holders, support for the transferability of fishing quotas and increased reliance on sound science has spurred the recovery of an impressive number of fisheries.

It is instructive that South Africa in fact consciously pursues the exact opposite. Our Fisheries Minister appears hellbent on destroying the SA fishing sector. It is beyond comprehension why our politicians are so committed to seeking out historically proven policy failures and then implementing these! Like fishing co-operatives and community-based fishing quotas! History tells us to not go there! 

In 2004, South Africa had two fisheries in crisis but recovering. Linefish stocks, particularly in marine protected areas were recovering rapidly. Abalone poaching was being reduced and a TURF-based management was being implemented. Today, every single one of the artisinal-based inshore fisheries are decimated and in crisis, including the important lobster nearshore fishery. Leading fisheries scientists are of the view that abalone poaching and resource destruction are so far gone that it is simply no longer possible to reverse. 

The full Economist article is available here. Some key paragraphs are reproduced below.

FOR American fish, this is a good time to be alive. On May 14th the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that a record six federal fisheries returned to health last year. After a decade of similar progress, 86% of America’s roughly 250 federally monitored commercial fish stocks were not subject to overfishing; 79% were considered healthy. 
This is also good for American fishermen. Commercial and recreational fishing generates an estimated $183 billion a year and supports over 1.5m full-time or part-time jobs. Rebuilding America’s 45 remaining over-exploited fish stocks, NOAA estimates, could generate an extra $31 billion a year and half a million jobs. 
That is a tribute to America learning a simple truth—that scientists, not fishermen or politicians, should decide how many fish can be caught—and enforcing this with simple rules.
The recent recovery of species, including New England scallops, mid-Atlantic bluefish and summer flounder and Pacific lingcod, is the result. This signals another truth: given a break, the marine environment can often replenish itself spectacularly. 
America’s fisheries are probably now managed almost as well as the world’s best, in Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia. Yet there is plenty of room for improvement. State-run fisheries, which tend to be close to shore and dominated by small-scale and inefficient fishermen, are less well funded and well managed and much poorer for it. New England groundfish stocks, including cod, have also not recovered: they account for 13 of the remaining depleted populations. This appears to be partly the result of environmental change, climatic or cyclical. 
And the politicians are still interfering. On May 9th the House passed legislation forbidding NOAA from developing an innovative means of apportioning fishing quotas, known as catch shares. These are long-term, aiming to give fishermen a stake in the future of their fisheries; market-based, since they can be traded; and, in practice, good for fish. 

(Note to South African politicians: Continue with populist, failed schemes like the small scale fishing policy and you will only increase poverty, inequality and biological destruction of fisheries.)

Fisheries Minister Blunders Again!

If we recall, the tuna longliner, Eiahatsu Maru, ran aground last month at Clifton. While it was authorised to fish in SA waters under a joint venture arrangement with a South African tuna longline quota holder, it now emerges that a representative of the vessel owning company initially travelled to South Africa to understand the extent of company's liabilities and is now leaving without settling any of the salvage and related costs. 

In terms of Section 39 of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), a foreign fishing vessel licence may only be issued by the Minister of Fisheries where the vessel owner provides sufficient financial and other guarantees, as well as satisfying conditions regarding insurance related to pollution and rescue or salvage. Furthermore, the Minister must be satisfied that the guarantees provided are adequate for the purpose of section 39. 

As the vessel owning company appears to be walking away from the salvage bill, it is apparent that our Fisheries Minister has once again blundered. She has failed to ensure that the foreign vessel licences issued to foreign flagged fishing vessels comply with section 39 of the MLRA. This much is apparent from the "permit" conditions (it ought to be section 39 licence conditions) for foreign fishing vessels and the permit conditions for the tuna long line fishery. If only she had even just one special advisor who knew something about fisheries or a professional fisheries manager as Deputy Director-General of Fisheries, then she might know what all this fish stuff is about. 

Will we see a frenzy of activity to correct this clear violation of the MLRA? Lets see. The consequence however of the Eiahatsu Maru debacle is that the South African taxpayer will now certainly foot the salvage bill, which could have been avoided had we had a diligent and effective Minister. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Minister and Her Special Advisers

In reply to Parliamentary Question 1427, the Minister of Fisheries sheds more light on why she has been able to provide the profoundly shocking leadership in fisheries over the past 3 years. 

In terms of South Africa's public administration laws, every Minister is authorised to appoint a maximum of two special advisers under section 12A of the Public Service Act, 1994. The purpose of the appointment of special advisers is...well for a Minister to appoint specialists to advise on policy and governance. So when a Minister with no prior knowledge of or experience in fisheries is appointed as the Minister of Fisheries, one would have assumed that she would rush to appoint specialists in the field of fisheries governance and policy.

Nope. Not our distinguished Fisheries Minister. Instead, the Minister confirms that while she has appointed as many special advisers as deputy-director generals of fisheries (7 each!), everyone of those specials advisers had and currently have no experience in or knowledge fisheries - just like the 7 acting DDG's of Fisheries she has appointed. The obvious question then is what special advice do they dispense? Or is that self-evident?

The Minister's current special advisers are Rams Mabote and Duncan Hindle. Mabote has a Btech degree in Journalism and Hindle has a degree in education. The Minister would be on the right track if she was the Minister of Education or even Communications (scratch the latter considering her tantrum at the Press Club and her rants generally!)

So now we know how she came to argue about equitably spreading fish across the country; or why she never knew about the 22 commercial fishing sectors that make up the SA fishing industry; or that abalone does not occur in KwaZulu-Natal or why it is vaguely important to have fisheries patrol vessels and research vessels at sea and not bobbing about in harbour...

Oh, and these special advisers are costing the taxpayer a cool R3 million annually in salaries for the special advice they have been dispensing. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Questions about Eastern Cape Abalone Quotas

The Rapport newspaper yesterday raised some questions about the Fisheries Department's allocation of experimental abalone fishing quotas in the Eastern Cape. Questions raised included who was allocated permits and how these were allocated, particularly as there has not been an open and public permit application and allocation process. There is no known Gazette inviting experimental permit applications as is normally done. 

Feike has received information that seems to suggest that the allocation of abalone permits in the Eastern Cape certainly warrants investigation and for the department to provide answers. For example, it is suggested that 9 tons of abalone in the Jeffreys Bay area has been handed to 3 divers from Hawston in the Western Cape. 

The Fisheries Minister should be asked to provide details concerning how the experimental permits were allocated and the names and details of every person allocated a permit. In any case, the Director-General of DAFF ought to maintain an up-to-date and accessible (such as on a website) register of every permit and right allocated under the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998.

R100 million committed to Small Harbours

It has emerged that the National Department of Public Works has committed R100 million to the rehabilitation of the small fishing harbours in the Western Cape. There are 11 in the Western Cape and 1 in the Northern Cape.

It is clear that the R100 million being spent over the next three years will largely attend to urgent and serious structural failures and collapses as well as cosmetic upgrades to these harbours.

So does this mean that these harbours should NOT be removed from the control of the Fisheries department (as well as the National Public Works department) as has been suggested?

Well obviously not. Here are some reasons why.

Firstly, of course, both departments of public works and fisheries have been described by their respective political heads as departments mired by maladministration, corruption and dysfunction! Brilliant. 

Secondly, the fact that the harbours were allowed to be degraded to such levels before money was committed to fix them is reason alone that they should be removed from the clutches of incompetence. And allowing them to collapse effectively means that taxpayers are now footing the bill for unnecessary and costly repairs. Why were these harbours not maintained and properly managed in the first place? Most of the repairs being attended to such as repairing jetties, slipways and cranes were last effected in the early 2000's. 

Thirdly, while these repairs are absolutely necessary, the Fisheries department continues to fail to manage them as the harbours continue to be the thoroughfare for poached fish and other elicit goods. Hout Bay harbour is perhaps the most glaring example of being the harbour of choice for abalone and lobster poachers. And the R100 million being spent will also not include the removal of the more than 7 sunken vessels at the Hout Bay Repair jetty or the removal of the various junks from the harbour. And this spending spree will also not address the gross mismanagement of harbour leases.

Finally and most importantly, small harbour management must be administered and controlled by local governments in terms of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the management of harbours by the departments of fisheries and public works is unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.  

Oil Spill Heads toward EC

Timeslive reports that an oil spill slick is heading toward the Eastern Cape coastline and neither the Department of Environmental Affairs nor the Department of Fisheries (who is supposed to be in charge of our patrol vessels which are equipped with anti-oil pollution gear and materials) are even aware of it let alone poised to dealing with it. 

Why on earth do we pay these people salaries again?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Norway Approached to Help SA Pelagic Industry

The South African pelagic fishing industry turned to an old friend this week to desperately seek the assistance of Norway to help the industry with the increasingly unlikely pelagic research cruise. The reality is that this cruise must commence by next week or South Africa will not have a second half anchovy TAC and possibly may not have a pilchard TAC for 2013. This would certainly destroy billions of rands in commercial turnover and threaten some 12,000 jobs in the pilchard and anchovy sectors.

This is in addition to the 5000 jobs the Minister has directly jeopardised in the hake trawl fisheries by not allowing the hake research cruise to take place.

It is mind boggling that President Zuma and the Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, who chairs the National Planning Commission with its lofty ideals of "sustainability, job creation and poverty reduction" can allow the Fisheries Minister to wantonly ruin one great commercial fishery after another.

We reassert that the pelagic industry has little option but to turn to the courts for urgent assistance.

PS: We understand that the Namibians will soon be taking delivery of another research vessel and we may have to ask Namibia for assistance. It is worth reading an article in the latest Economist on how South Africa's bungling government is costing us.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


On 31 May 2012, Feike, together with members of the South African fishing industry and representatives of the artisinal fishing sector met with members of the National Planning Commission, chaired by Minister Trevor Manuel. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the state of the South African fishing industry and how commercial and small scale artisinal fisheries can contribute to the four themes of the National Development Plan and Vision 2030. The four themes are sustainability, poverty reduction, reduction of inequality and job creation. 

The Commission confirmed that "sustainability" was considered the paramount theme as without resource sustainability, the remaining three objectives are unattainable. Feike suggested that of even greater importance than sustainability is governance and that the current governance crisis in fisheries in turn destroys sustainability. By way of example, we noted the how the maladministration of the interim relief process has destroyed lobster nearshore stocks. 

Further examples of a fisheries governance crisis abound. In fact, to describe the present state of maladministration as a crisis is an understatement of gargantuan proportions. Fisheries management, research and compliance have been systematically decimated by the current fisheries minister and her administration. DAFF has been denuded to an institution barely capable of issuing fishing permits. 

This Blog has repeatedly identified some of the most egregious violations of law and common sense with respect to the (mis) management of South Africa's fish stocks. 

However, the most appalling blunder (and that is an understatement too) which our hapless minister has readily admitted to without assuming any responsibility or urgently attempting to fix must be the complete collapse of the fisheries research cruises, the termination of the fisheries observer programme and the termination of fisheries patrols. 

The provision of fisheries research, monitoring and compliance functions are the most basic and critical functions of any responsible fisheries administration or regulator. This is what the fishing pays for via the system of permit fees, levies and taxes. Without the provision of these functions, our fisheries will fail and collapse resulting in massive unemployment, joblessness, increased inequality and resource destruction - exactly the contrary to what the NDP and Planning Commission seeks to achieve. 

However, the fisheries minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has resolutely opposed responsible fisheries governance. She is afterall the architect of the current dysfunction, maladministration and failure in the department of fisheries. 

The question is what to do to prevent massive job losses and the collapse of commercial fisheries. The Minister refuses to even attempt to appoint professionals to lead the department or advise her. Her advisors are completely illiterate in fisheries management; completely unaware of the most basic fisheries management principles. The Minister's last seven acting deputy-director generals of fisheries (that is right, 7) have had no experience in or knowledge of fisheries yet they were tasked with leading the fisheries branch. The Minister fails to lead and her department has no leaders. 

The only option left is for the fishing industry to seek the intervention of the courts by way of a  mandamus application which will force the Minister and her department to do what the MLRA obliges them to do (and of course what they are paid to do). The most recent precedent of such an intervention is the High Court decision against the Basic Education Department and its Minister that instructed the Minister to provide textbooks to students and to do so by a court specified date. 

There is no doubt that the fishing industry will succeed with such a structured interdict application. The Department and its Minister has already admitted and confirmed in writing by way of its 3rd Quarter report to Parliament that its failure to deploy the SAS Africana to conduct the hake research cruise and its termination of the critical observer programme may mean the loss of the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label which in turn will threaten the sale of South African hake products in the European Union.

The department has furthermore admitted that the failure to undertake any further research cruises (which it accepts as a reality now) will prevent it from determining sustainable total allowable catch limits for the 2013 fishing season.

We understand that although the SAS Africana is able to sail to conduct the crucial pelagic cruise, she does not have a qualified crew and despite desperate and repeated attempts by the pelagic industry to get the Minister and her department to authorise an alternative private vessel that could be crewed by SMIT Amandla staff, the Minister simply refuses to act. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why Fishing Harbours Must be Removed from the Destructive Clutches of DAFF

This statement was issued by the Democratic Alliance, explaining why it is necessary that our fishing harbours be rescued from the dysfunction that defines DAFF currently. 

National government is inadequately equipped to deal with the management of the 12 small fishing harbours in the Western Cape. It should cede this responsibility to local government as per Schedule 4 (B) of the Constitution. Small harbour management currently falls under the jurisdiction of the National Departments of Public Works and Fisheries.

Earlier this year, the DA asked a parliamentary question about whether government has made any progress in restoring sound management to these harbours (given the commissioning of a report in 2007 with very clear recommendations). The reply to our question revealed that, five years on, no progress has been made to restore these dilapidated harbours. 

The report cost the taxpayer R4.8 million. It was commissioned by the Department of Fisheries in 2007, written by Ernst & Young, and released in 2008. 

Government’s reply that ‘an inter-departmental Harbours Steering Committee has been established to implement the findings and recommendations of the Harbour Feasibility Study’ is inadequate. We are still awaiting answers to the following questions in this regard:

Who is on this committee? 
What terms of reference they will be operating under? And;
Why it has taken 4 years to establish?  

Most jarring of all is the department’s assertion that ‘implementation plans with timeframes will be developed for each harbour’. At this rate, given that the department has already had five years to deliver return to taxpayers on their R4.8 million tab, we are not likely to see results soon. It is a typical non-answer. Meanwhile, the commercial opportunities that could otherwise be made available to poor fishing communities are being forgone.

As the attached pictures indicate, Hout Bay Harbour is in a particularly poor state. The report shows that ‘there is inadequate and poor maintenance of infrastructure within harbours’, ‘inadequate security’ and ‘ineffective lease management’. This is rather euphemistic language. It is another way of saying that the harbours are not working and that poachers may come and go as they please. 

Poor harbour management crowds out responsible, job-creating commercial activity and crowds in opportunities for the criminal underworld. Small harbours in the Western Cape are hotbeds for abalone poaching, which is tearing apart the social fabric of poor communities across the province. Government is allowing this decay to flourish under their watch.

Many young unemployed people in poor fishing communities have little choice but to partake in poaching. A diver can be paid up to R600 for one dive. Good governance of small harbours, on the other hand, would create the kind of commercial activity that provides alternative employment.
The Departments of Public Works and Fisheries are bent on leaving a legacy of complacency instead of competence. Ceding the running of these harbours to a more competent jurisdiction would ensure that job-creation will flourish. 

Private Members Bill

In light of the preceding context, the DA has submitted a private member’s bill to parliament. The bill proposes that legislation be written to give effect to Schedule 4 (B) of the Constitution. Harbours are to be conferred upon local government in the following terms: ‘Pontoons, ferries, jetties, piers and harbours, excluding the regulation of international shipping and national shipping and matters relating thereto’. 

There is no legislation currently in existence which regulates the municipal exercise of the Schedule 4 (B) harbour competency. Moreover, legally justified concern exists as to whether the regulations under the Marine Living Resources Act of 1988 that pertain to small harbours are unconstitutional. A 2004 legal opinion in the DA’s possession states that the municipality has the legislative and executive authority over the harbour functions. Therefore, the fact that national government departments are currently performing some of these functions is in conflict with the Constitution because a national performance of the functions exceeds the regulatory competency of section 155 (7). 

Additionally, reading the Constitution together with the Integrated Coastal Management Act of 2008, the powers of local government with respect to harbours, excluding national ports as defined in the National Ports Act, indicate that local government has legislative and executive authority in respect of harbours within its jurisdiction, subject to the Constitution and the Municipal Systems Act. 

To complement the 2004 opinion, a 2012 memorandum of advice confirms that legislation should be introduced by Parliament that will transfer the ownership and management functions of small harbours to a municipal competency. 

The 2012 Memorandum of Advice states that neither the National Ports Act of 2005, nor the Integrated Coastal Management Act No. 24 of 2008, bear on the relevance of the findings contained in the 2004 legal opinion. The memorandum concludes that:
‘it is problematic for regulations under the Marine living Resources Act to regulate matters pertaining to the municipal harbour constitutional competency, and that such regulations could, if challenged, be found to be unconstitutional’.

That no legislation regulating the municipal exercise of the Constitutional Schedule 4B harbour function is sufficient grounds on which to propose the creation of such legislation.

Developmental Benefits of New Legislation

Under the umbrella of Schedule 4 (B) of the Constitution, and in light of the fact that municipalities have the legislative and executive authority over the harbour functions, they have a free hand in exercising their authority and are bound only by the developmental principles of sections 152/153 of the Constitution. They are also bound by the principles of co-operative government and the Bill of Rights.

Every attempt that the City of Cape Town has made to meet with its national counterparts to discuss the management of Kalk Bay and Hout Bay harbours has been ignored by national government. A memorandum of understanding is even in place, ready to be signed by the National Departments of Public Works and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town.

The memo recognises the key economic and social assets that harbours constitute within their broader urban environment. It also makes the significant point that isolated planning, development, governance and management of fishing harbours within this broader urban environment is detrimental to economic growth, the realisation of optimal socio-economic potential, governance, law enforcement and social development.

As is recognised by the Constitution and mentioned above, the memo drafted by the City of Cape Town indicates that cooperative planning, governance and management is essential if the full economic and social potential of fishing harbours is to be optimised. 

The memo was created in order to bind all parties to the construction of a Spatial and Economic Development Plan for each of the fishing harbours in the City of Cape Town, and very clearly delineates what the roles and responsibilities of each party would be.


South Africa’s small harbours, particularly those in the Western Cape, are being wasted as public assets. Five years on from the commissioning of a report on the harbours, the Department of Fisheries and Public Works have made no progress. Economic opportunities are being forgone, deepening the reliance in nearby communities on the trade in poached abalone. Unemployed youth are easily caught in the snare of gangsterism because national government is failing them.

Every effort made by the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Government of the Western Cape to rectify the situation falls on deaf ears. 

The DA has therefore submitted a Private Members Bill to propose that legislation be drafted and enacted which gives effect to Schedule 4 (B) of our Constitution as it pertains to which sphere of government has authority over the harbours, namely municipalities.

Free from the clutches of National Public Works and Fisheries, we expect that the harbours will be employed to achieve their optimal socio-economic potential. Their flourishing, as part of a broader spatial economic development framework, will produce healthier social capital in communities that are currently being torn apart by the strife associated with unnecessary poverty.