It has to be a particular combination of utter arrogance and stupidity to commence the second phase of the fishing rights consultation process once again without having notified interested and affected persons of the process or even having gazetted the sector specific policies or application forms.
The draft application forms and sector policies are nowhere to be found - not on the DAFF website, not at fishery control offices or at DAFF's Customer Services Centre in Cape Town.
And to compound the illegality of the process, DAFF issued informal emails to certain right holders only the day after the consultation process started in Stillbaai on 8 May - the Stillbaai consultation was on the hake handline fishery only and we understand from those who were able to attend that the draft sector hake handline policy is ... you guessed it ... a another copy-and-paste job of the 2005 hake handline fishery policy!
And what is the point of the consultation process when the draft policies which are supposed to be the subject of the consultation are not made available BEFORE the meeting? DAFF obviously is of the opinion that people must simply attend, listen to what they say and then collect the food parcels they have on offer (or least had on offer during the general policy consultation process - as if food must placate the bloody fisherman as opposed to answers about this process). That is simply not a legally valid consultation process.
This second phase of the consultation process will not withstand legal scrutiny for the following further reasons:
1. The comment period which ends on 31 May 2013 is too short. Some parties will have 22 days and others will have 13 days to comment on the sector policies. Given the complexity and importance of these processes, such short consultation and comment periods are contrary to the provisions of proper and fair administrative justice under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act; and
2. None of the sector policies have been gazetted or made available for public consumption BEFORE the commencement of the consultation process. For proper and adequate consultation to be realised, these documents ought to have been gazetted in at least two of the country's official languages prior to the commencement of the consultation process. This would allow interested and affected parties to study each draft policy, seek legal or professional counsel on them, attend the consultation meetings and then be able to adequately and properly interrogate the draft texts. That is administratively fair consultation as determined by our courts.
3. The extremely selective nature of the consultation process is highly prejudicial and unfair. For example, DAFF indicates that it will only consult with right holders and interested parties in Cape Town on the tuna pole sector policy. This would exclude all right holders and potential applicants in areas such as Eastern Cape, the Overberg and West Coast? Do these persons simply not matter? And what about the hundreds of line fish right holders and potential applicants that will be excluded because the DAFF will not be consulting any traditonal line fisherman on the west coast? So much for all the rhetoric about empowering the poor and those outside of Cape Town. By way of comparison, in 2005, 48 coastal venues were visited and communities consulted AFTER the draft general fisheries policy, each of the sector policies and application forms were gazetted in 4 languages and physically made available to communities via the fishery control officers and partner offices such as conservancy groups, NGO's and provincial authorities such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
4. Finally, the second phase of the consultation process appears to have forgotten about a rights allocation and consultation process for the shark demersal fishery! Has DAFF forgotten about this fishery and its right holders?
Like the first phase of the consultation process on the general fisheries policy, this process can only be described as farcical and chaotic. The consultation process is wholly unlawful and prejudicial to the rights and interests of quota holders and members of coastal fishing villages and towns. The time is approaching to halt this illegality and madness by way of an interdict.