According to the Cape Times this morning, DAFF now admits that the observer programme was terminated because "...it 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?