The Fisheries Department's Acting DDG, Desmond Stevens, is suddenly running along the coast like a headless chicken "consulting" with members of the traditional line fish sector. Quite frankly, these "consultations" are dishonest and too late as Mr Stevens can do absolutely nothing to correct or change his disastrous fishing rights allocations of 30 December 2013.
What Stevens is desperately doing is trying to buy time and string fishermen along in a bid to falsely placate them. Stevens's decisions of 30 December 2013 prevent him from changing a single decision. In law he said to be functus officio and cannot change a single decision. Persons who have been denied a right cannot be granted a right by Stevens. Similarly, those new entrants who were granted rights - no matter how underserving - cannot have their rights taken away! Not even the Minister can do this! And the small number of rights available on appeal cannot solve this national crisis.
So what exactly can Stevens say to the line fish industry and the 335 traditional line fishers who lost their rights? If one considers the public statements he and the DG of DAFF have made, it is clear they have little intention of resolving this crisis. In fact, they have shown zero remorse or understanding of the harm caused. Stevens has said on radio that he cant understand why fishers are so unhappy! The DG of DAFF is on record as stating that they took away the rights of fishers who failed to utilise their fishing rights! Really? They took away the fishing rights of fishermen who relied solely on line fishing for their livelihoods; who employ 10 crew; who pay taxes; and who have been fishing for decades and allocated fishing rights instead to gangsters, directors of commercial fishing companies, 70 year-old women who have never been on boats before and to "new entrants" who dont even have boats!
If they were truly serious about consulting with the industry, why did they not consult line fish right holders on west coast on the line fish policy? Why did Stevens fail to first publish the provisional decision lists as had been done back in 2005, calling on local communities to assist with the vetting of the proposed successful lists? Had these basic measures been implemented, this crisis would have been avoided.
My advice to the line fish sector has been that the only basis of consultation with Stevens should be to obtain his irrevocable undertaking that he would approach the Western Cape High Court on an urgent Ex parte basis and have his own decisions set aside, restoring all fishing rights as at 30 December 2013 and that this must be done within the next 2 weeks. Any other discussions with him would be a waste of time and will only result in empty, unimplementable promises.