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.