During 2012, we bitched and moaned plenty about the fact that the Department of Fisheries had done nothing by way of planning for the 2013 long term fishing rights allocation process. We also provided numerous solutions (in the beginning at least) but these became more like emergency evacuation procedures toward the end of last year as - and this is only our humble opinion - the time had run out for the department to timeously (and of course legally) allocate fishing rights.
This is not to say that the department can't allocate some 1000 fishing rights across 8 commercial fisheries as distinct as prawn trawl and traditional linefish. It can be done if one gayly ignores basic legal processes and haphazardly allocates fishing rights to those one likes most - the R800 million vessel management tender just happens to come to mind and so does a recent lobster TAC intervention!
Back in November 2012, the department presented its rights allocation timetable to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Fisheries. Now, we have already pointed out why this timetable is extremely problematic and unlawful.
The question that increasingly concerned right holders in the squid and line fisheries have (in particular) is what on earth is going on even in terms of the department's own flawed timetable? There is no question that DAFF hates communicating with the fishing industry or for that matter with anyone. So understanding what is going on at DAFF is like asking the East German Stasi for a status update!
According to DAFF's November 2012 timetable, by February 2013 the following ought to have been accomplished:
1. The "service provider" responsible for overseeing the long term rights allocation process was to have been appointed by November 2012. As far as we can ascertain, this has not happened yet or DAFF is keeping the appointment a secret.
2. By January 2013, all the current fishery policies (ie General Fishing Policy and each of the sector fishing policies) was to have been analysed and draft policies prepared for public comment. Again, nothing of the sort has been done unless the department undertook this gap analysis in secret without consulting industry on what their specific views are on the current policies, laws and processes and what they would prefer. (This is how one undertakes a basic gap or SWOT analysis process).
3. During February 2013, the formal public consultation process on the draft policies ought to commence. As none of the above has been put in place, a public consultation process is of course not possible (and of course there has not been any public notice about a possible consultation process for February or March).
So, even on the department's own rights allocation timetable, it is now 3 months late - at least. Feike will be providing the fishing industry with regular updates on what progress (if any) is being made on the rights allocation process as we understand how important it is that right holders are kept fully abreast of developments so as to be able to plan beyond 2013.