Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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. 

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