On 15 January 2013, we reported that the Green Party's Judith Sole served a second set of papers on the Minister of Fisheries, her DDG and a number of "interested parties" (none being right holders in the lobster sector) seeking to either -
- halt all lobster fishing in South African waters until lobster stocks recover to "sustainable levels";
- alternatively, to stop the commercial trap fishery from fishing but to allow the nearshore and interim relief sectors to continue operating.
As we had reported on 15 January, our opinion is that the application is not only entirely ill-conceived on a substantive basis but it is fatally flawed on a procedural basis as Ms Sole failed once again (as she had done in her initial application in December 2012) to serve the application on each of the more than 2000 commercial right holders and interim relief operators as she is required to do.
That said, the respondents (ie the Minister and her DDG) were required to serve their notices of opposition by 22 January 2013. By the 22nd, only the West Coast Rock Lobster Industry Association had filed a notice of opposition. Now a week later, the question is why has the Minister and her DDG not filed opposition notices?
It could just be plain incompetence, which is not uncommon as we all know. We have been involved in litigation where the Ministers of Environmental Affairs and Fisheries only filed opposition notices 7 months late on the morning the application was to heard on an unopposed basis!
The conspiracy theorists reckon that the Minister and her DDG have not opposed yet as they may in fact be seriously looking at the alternative relief being sought by Ms Sole - ie shutting the commercial trap fishery but keeping the interim relief and nearshore sectors open. Now surely that could not be true especially since we know how committed Tina Joemat-Pettersson is to growing our commercial fisheries and ensuring that they remain profitable? She will surely not support some populist and destructive agenda aimed at harming the commercial trap fishery!