The Department of Fisheries has issued two tender requests in the latest tender bulletin (24 August 2012). One is for the appointment of a service provider to review fisheries policies and oversee the allocation of long term fishing rights in 9 fishery sectors in 2012/2013. The second tender seeks to appoint a service provider to provide a marine anti-poaching service in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces.
Although these tenders are to be welcomed, they are extremely long overdue. The fishery policy and allocation tender closes on 21 September 2012. Assuming the Department does not repeat its recent record when it comes to tender (mis) management, this tender could be allocated by late November 2012, which will leave the prospective tenderer less than 12 months to achieve the near impossible.
The allocation of fishing rights involves a series of complex and integrated management, decision-making and regulatory functions, which are presently lacking at DAFF. There is little to no leadership at DAFF with the two most critical senior managers responsible for these processes - the DDG and Chief Director of Fisheries - currently filled by acting staff who are regularly rotated. The current acting DDG has no fisheries management experience or knowledge and as such will not have any knowledge of it means to allocate fishing quotas. The present acting Chief Director of Fisheries Management - which has been rotated between Dennis Fredericks and Saasa Pheeha - has limited knowledge of these processes and neither were involved in the allocation of long term fishing rights. Fredericks had a limited role during the allocation of medium term fishing rights in 2001. Both are however in our opinion committed to the job at hand but this is a huge team effort that requires the Minister to lead.
The department still lacks a director-general or an accountable or visonary Minister that has essentially accused her staff of widespread corruption and maladministration and has spent the last year at least chasing ghosts, looking for corruption dating back to 1999 and accusing non-existent companies of corruption. Now it becomes even less clear how the gargantuan task will be achieved.
What past allocation processes have clearly indicated is that you need a dedicated team of experts to run the allocation process (as management must still attend to the day-to-day fisheries operations) and to start at least 2 years before the deadline with serious in-house planning and preparation and informal consultations with fishing industry bodies. This is especially critical if you identify (early on) the need for amendments to regulations and laws. For example, while preparing the framework for the traditional line fish policy in 2003 (adopted by Cabinet in July 2005), it was accepted that a number of amendments were required to the 1998 Fisheries Regulations pertaining to the linefishery. These amendments were eventually drafted, consulted on and gazetted in 2004. Long-term line fishing rights were allocated in 2005 and 2006.
It is already apparent that the Department must amend the Marine Living Resources Act if it is to even contemplate implementation of the Small Scale Fishing Policy (even though they admit they do not have any idea as to how this policy can be implemented in the real world) . However, if one considers that long term fishing rights must be allocated in a host of small scale fisheries next year (traditional line fish, oysters, mussels, trek nets and KZN beach seine), it is simply inconceivable that all the necessary processes to effect an amendment to an Act of Parliament can be undertaken in less than 12 months. Without an amendment to the MLRA to allow fishing rights to be allocated to "communities", the Small Scale Fishing Policy effectively remains a policy with unlawful provisions and is effectively still-borne. (How Cabinet could adopt a policy that contains provisions that are de facto contrary to an Act of Parliament is questionable in itself).
To make matters even worse, the Minister of Fisheries has simply refused to meet with any one of the 22 commercial fishery sectors or one of the 14 recognised industry bodies that represent right holders since her appointment in June 2009.
So with about 12 months left before some 1000 fishing rights must be allocated, no one knows what the Minister's thoughts are on the subject of rights allocation other than her bizarre statements about moving fisheries management from Cape Town to Pretoria or her farcical pronouncements on "equitably spreading fish across the country" as fish are susceptible to ANC social engineering.
This is deeply concerning as there are some 1000 right holders who have held fishing rights for periods of 8 years to date, who employ many thousands of people and who have made substantial investments in their businesses and where most of these investments are secured by homes, pension funds and other forms of securities but who do not know if the Minister of Fisheries will simply decree some time next year that they do not qualify for a right in terms of criteria that have been drafted in some back-office by consultants who know little about the intricacies of fisheries in a mad-rush to meet some deadline we all knew about for the past 8 years.