Monday, November 5, 2012

PC Meeting on Long Term Fishing Rights 2013

The Department of Fisheries will provide the Fisheries Portfolio Committee with a briefing on its proposed plans to allocate commercial fishing rights during 2013.

The briefing is scheduled for 9am in the Marks Building, M514, Fifth Floor.

This BLOG has repeatedly stated that there is simply no way that the Department of Fisheries will be able to allocate fishing rights by December 2013 given that they only woke to this obligation earlier this year. The Department's proposed timetable which will be presented to the Portfolio Committee confirms this.

Here is the Department's proposed timetable for the allocation of long term fishing rights in the KZN prawn trawl (20 applications estimated / 7 rights available for allocation), squid (500 / 100), hake handline (250 / 50), oyster (300 / 145), mussel (50 / 7), traditional line fish (2000 / 450), tuna pole (200 / 200) and demersal shark (50 / 23) fisheries.

While the timetable and the time allocations particularly can at best be described as unrealistic (perhaps because there is no person presently at DAFF who oversaw or managed a rights allocation process previously), the most glaring and legally fatal anomalies are the failure to make provision for an adequate public consultation process for the amendment of the 8 present separate fishery policies and the General Fishery Policy, the possible amendment of the 1998 Fishery Regulations and the Marine Living Resources Act and obtaining the requisite Cabinet approvals on each of the 8 final fishery policies (and amended General Fisheries Policy).

The proposed "road map" above does not take into account that no less than 6 months is required to comprehensively analyse the current the fishery policies and what amendments are required to the current policies and the General Fishery Policy. Once these changes are identified, the draft amendments need to be Gazetted for comment. A minimum of 30 days is required for this and in the case of artisinal fisheries, such as line fish, oysters and mussels, a substantially longer consultation period is required. In 2005, the draft policies were presented to fishing communities in more than 50 towns, villages and cities along the coast.  

Once these consultations processes are completed, the department will have to digest the public comments and proceed to finalise the policies. At this stage, the Department will then have to commence with the amendment of the Fisheries Regulations based on the accepted amendments to the current fishery policies. Draft amendments to the Regulations will have to published for comment in the Gazette. Once again, a minimum of 30 days is required for the consultation process. 

Once amendments to both the policies and Regulations have been identified and finalised, the Department will have to obtain Cabinet approval for the amendments to the fishing policies (as Cabinet had approved each of the current policies back in 2005, Cabinet alone can approve amendments to them under Section 86 of the Constitution). The Cabinet approval process will add no less than 3 months to the process. 

In addition, the timetable refers to an "economic sectoral study" having been completed. As far as we are aware, the last time such a study was undertaken was in 2000/2001. The recent performance measuring process was certainly not an "economic sectoral study". Furthermore, discussions between fishery managers and industry sectors subsequent to the publication of the performance measuring data confirmed that the analyses published by the department were broadly incorrect and generally useless. So the data from performance measuring process is of no analytical use at all. 

Further, the "road map" above tells us that by June 2013 the department will determine the size of allocations and TAC's/TAE's. How this is going to be done is beyond comprehension given that the size of allocations to individual right holders cant be determined BEFORE the number of successful applicants have been determined or before the determination of the 2014 TAC's/TAE's, let alone even prior to the receipt of applications! This is just another indication of how ridiculous and concocted this "road map" is. 

It is therefore plainly clear that the Department will have to re-write its road map, ensure that basic legal procedures in terms of the Constitution and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act are adhered to and notify right holders that rights will actually be re-allocated not earlier than March/April 2014. On that note, the Department may want to start preparing now for the allocation of fishing rights in sectors such as abalone and large pelagics as these rights expire in 2014. 

We have no doubt that the Department will as usual remain pig-headed and insist to the Portfolio Committee on 6 November that all fishing rights will be allocated by December 2013. 

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