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. 

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