Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fisheries Confirms Major Failures

The Fisheries Department (DAFF) this morning confirmed before the Portfolio Committee on Fisheries that it is unable to implement the most basic obligations required of it under the Marine Living Resources Act. 

The Department's admissions are downright startling and contradict previous (false) assertions just last week that all was under control such as the hake trawl survey (which is under control but because the trawl industry has had to take charge of the survey and use an industry vessel). In particular, the DAFF - now under the leadership of Deputy Director-General, Greta Apelgren-Nakardien - has confirmed that it has failed to undertake fisheries compliance surveillance and therefore cannot say what fish has been illegally harvested from SA waters; the research cruises have failed and are now essentially being undertaken by industry and it is plainly apparent that the department will simply not be able to allocate fishing rights this year. 

DAFF has admitted that its grossly negligent conduct has now directly threatened the continued certification by the Marine Stewardship Council of our hake trawl fisheries. Our EEZ is completely unpatrolled and completely susceptible to massive plundering. We stand to lose thousands of tons of high value fish such as tunas, roughy, toothfish, hake and others to poaching. 

DAFF also admitted that the fisheries branch will simply not meet many of its targets! 

Of equal concern is the admission that the rights allocation process is no less than 5 months behind their own November 2012 plan which we have repeatedly stated is not only legally impossible to implement but also practically impossible. The very first target of appointing a service provider by November 2012 has not even happened. DAFF confirmed that they must still "re-work bid specifications" and re-advertise the tender!

What is perplexing is that Feike, together with various organisations, including the official opposition - the DA - have been sounding these warnings for months now and the Fisheries Minister and her cadres have repeatedly refused to acknowledge our advices; instead they have repeatedly opted to label us as "liars"; as being "alarmists"; or not worth listening to. What is a greater tragedy is that the present DDG, Nakardien - who has zero knowledge or understanding of basic fisheries management (having previously led the Northern Cape's department of co-operative governance, housing and traditional affairs which incidentally failed to achieve some 78% of its own performance targets last year but we understand already knows who is an expert in the industry or is not!) - appears committed to stick her head in the ground and deny the seriousness of the crises before us despite the content of her own presentation.

Put plainly this fisheries administration, led by the most incompetent minister ever to grace our fine shores, by its own admission today does not have the intellectual capacity and leadership to -
  • protect our fish stocks;
  • undertake fisheries research;
  • administer the fisheries branch; 
  • implement its own rights allocation timetable, which now will certainly result in the non-renewal of more than 1000 fishing quotas come 31 December 2013; or
  • accept advice and guidance from industry and sector experts.
So the sum of the Apelgren-Nakardien strategy in the face of multiple crises has been to blame the Navy entirely for the complete collapse of fisheries research and compliance (even though DAFF officials sat and nodded in agreement with everything the Navy said to the Portfolio Committee back in November 2012); to deny any crisis (but that they have crisis management plans in place!); to cry when damning articles are carried on the Feike Blog and in the media; to insult the official opposition and to commit to "dealing" with Feike. 

Now that will certainly address the nadir fisheries management finds itself in. Perhaps Apelgren-Nakardien (and what is with this double barrel names - Joemat-Pettersson..?) should have also suspended herself when she suspended Lionel Adendorf on Friday.  

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