Monday, April 15, 2013

DAFF's General Fisheries Policy: A Lazy Cut-and-Paste Job

On 12 April 2013, the department of fisheries unofficially published its Draft Revised General Policy on the Allocation and Management of Fishing Rights: 2013. The document was handed out to representatives of the registered fishing industry bodies that were invited to a meeting in Cape Town. 

The draft General Policy has not been gazetted and as we have pointed out in our previous BLOG on the adopted "roll-out plan", the process insisted upon by DAFF cannot be considered proper or lawful. 
On the morning of 15 February 2013, DAFF held a "consultation meeting" in Richards Bay at The Richards, Protea Hotel. Again, only specific people were invited to attend. The local and regional newspaper and journalists of the Zululand Observer were completely unaware of the meeting. So were representatives of the Richards Bay Ski-Boat Club and Coast Watch. There was no public advertisement of the meeting which was supposed to be a consultation meeting on the draft General Policy and the process of allocating long term fishing rights. Has DAFF already taken a decision to exclude any new entrants to the fishing industry by excluding them from the consultation process? 

In the KZN region, the predominant commercial fisheries are the commercial prawn trawl fishery, the traditional line fishery and the beach seine fishery which targets sardines during the annual sardine run. So one can expect particular questions and demands for clarification pertaining to issues affecting these sectors. But DAFF has still not drafted - let alone published - sector specific policies. The draft General Policy was made available only in English to a predominantly rural, Zulu-speaking crowd who are not commercial fishers in any of the sectors listed above. Most, we are told, were bused in from Sodwana and other remote locations and appear to have been subsistence mussel harvesters. Commercial mussel harvesting is not permitted in KZN and the long term commercial fishing rights allocation process is accordingly not applicable to these subsistence folk. 

So procedurally, the process is shockingly flawed and should be stopped before more money, time and resources are squandered on this pointless road (holiday) trip around the coast. But what does the draft General Policy say? 

An initial glance at the draft General Policy confirms that it is just a poorly formatted cut-and-paste of the 2005 General Fisheries Policy that was drafted by, amongst others, Feike's Shaheen Moolla. The most substantial change is that the DAFF cut-and-pasters appear to have run out of cut-and-paste time and so failed to include a number of really important policy considerations such as the post-rights allocation management stuff (Part E of the 2005 Policy) in their "revised draft" version! The post-rights allocation fishery management policies are actually very important and address things like co-management of fisheries, charging and collection of fishing levies, implementation of observer programmes, the management of fishing right transfers, MPA's, port state measures, ecosystem approaches to fisheries management and so forth. So hopefully, the REVISED REVISED draft will include these important things. The cut-and-paster also jumbled up evaluation criteria with allocation process and methodology policy. So you suddenly start reading about "multi-sector involvement" immediately after having read about the "provisional list" process! Odd.  

And of course a number of key allocation process and methodological policies have been forgotten as well. 

What follows is our concise overview of the content of the draft General Fisheries Policy. 

The Cover Page: The cover page is a poor cut-and-paste of the 2005 General Fisheries Policy. It for example states that the draft General Policy "must be read with the applicable fishery specific policy" but of course there are no draft fishery policies as we have pointed out. In 2005 of course, the draft General Fisheries Policy was gazetted for comment together 19 sector policies. The 20th policy - for line fish - was published separately at the request of the linefish industry. 

Furthermore, although the document states that the policy is available on and more importantly that the policy is available in a multiplicity of languages, this is simply not the case at present! In 2005, each of the draft policies was available in English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa. 

Part A is essentially another example of why one must not mindlessly cut-and-paste from previous documents! Again we are told to read the draft General Fisheries Policy with sector policies that do not exist. 

The draft Policy states that it applies to 20 commercial and small scale fisheries "and the small scale fisheries sector". What is the "small-scale fisheries sector" if not all the nearshore fisheries such as west coast rock lobster nearshore, the trek-net fisheries, mussels, oysters, KZN beach seining, hake handline and traditional line fish? This requires clarity as it may actually be a typo.

It is also apparent that the department has forgotten about the abalone and long line tuna and swordfish fisheries. This is understandable given the mindless cut-and-paste strategy adopted in drafting the Policy as both of these fisheries were excluded from the application of the 2005 General Fisheries Policy as long term rights were allocated in these two sectors during 2003 and 2004, respectively. 

The draft policy also states - bizarrely - that it applies to the non-consumptive sectors (whale watching and shark cage diving) when in fact these sectors are regulated by the Department of Environmental Affairs! 

The "purpose and objectives" clause has a notable bias toward small-scale fishery management. None of these objectives are objectionable or problematic save to note that this clause ought to instead address the purpose of the General Fisheries Policy vis-a-vis the allocation of fishing rights and how it ought to relate to the sector specific policies and the current Small Scale Fisheries Policy. 

Clause 4 of the draft Policy records "key government policies" that have informed the content of the draft General Fisheries Policy. It is worth noting that the draft Policy does not state to what extent each of the quoted government policies have influenced the content of the draft Policy. We do venture to state that this clause is meaningless for two obvious reasons. Firstly, the purpose and objectives clause (with its significant bias toward small-scale fisheries development) is contradicted by the fundamental tenets of the National Development Plan's policy with respect to fisheries development and management. Secondly, the draft General Fisheries Policy is essentially a cut-and-paste of the 2005 General Policy so these quoted government policies could not have possibly influenced the content of the draft Policy! 

It is worth noting that the Draft Policy has completely ignored important changes and developments in regional and international fisheries management since 2005. For example, the draft Policy is silent on the extent to which the recent Benguela Current Commission Treaty and programme will affect fisheries management in South Africa particularly with respect to shared stocks. The draft Policy is also silent on the changes required to management policies by the Port State Measures Treaty or the EU Fisheries Regulations (for example with respect to the hake handline fishery).

The remaining text of the draft Policy is generally a poor, lazy and jumbled cut-and-paste of the 2005 General Fisheries Policy. 

The draft Policy appears to have forgotten to cut-and-paste important process and methodological policy statements on a number of important issues such as what can be expected in terms of the process of applying, the structure of the application forms, distribution of application forms, application fees, grant of right fees, process verification and auditing, how applications may be submitted for each cluster, number of copies to be submitted etc. These issues are just not addressed...perhaps because DAFF still does not know? Another critical "process" aspect is how does DAFF intend dealing with applications where section 21 transfer of fishing right applications have still not been completed. DAFF continues to sit with section 21 applications dating back to 2007 and 2008! How will these applications be dealt with? The draft Policy is silent on this important policy aspect.

Finally, it is important to note that clause 7.2.2 of the draft Policy appears to make provision for the allocation of fishing rights under section 18 of the Marine Living Resources Act to, inter alia, co-operatives and communal property associations. Of course, such a provision is unlawful as section 18 of the MLRA does not permit fishing rights to be allocated to co-operatives or communal property associations! Fishing rights may only be allocated to South African citizens, close corporations and South African companies and registered trusts. 

The draft General Policy is a shocking indictment of the parlous and unprofessional state that DAFF finds itself in. The unashamed and lazy cut-and-paste of the 2005 Fisheries Policy is scandalous to say the least, yet not unexpected given that DAFF is led by a DDG and an Acting Chief Director of Fisheries who each have no knowledge of or experience in fisheries management. But with this draft Policy, DAFF is essentially saying that over the past 8 years absolutely nothing has changed in national, regional or international fisheries management that warrants a substantially amended fisheries policy. For DAFF, time has remained stuck in 2004. 

The draft General Policy should be binned.  

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