Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interim Relief for Line Fishers: Are they being led down the Garden Path?

Interim relief in the lobster fishery began 8 years ago and has resulted in mass coastal poverty and spectacular resource destruction. Lobster is presently 97% overfished and was removed from the WWF SASSI green list in 2013. Interim relief in the lobster fishery is synonymous with corruption, maladministration, poverty, poaching, coastal community conflict and resource destruction. It is hardly an "interim" measure either given that it has been running for 8 consecutive years. Right holders in this sector dont pay taxes; dont pay fishing levies; dont pay for permit application fees. Interim relief has become a social grant system in the fisheries sector and an opt-out for the fisheries department to actually grant fishing rights and manage the lobster sector coherently and responsibly.

Is this what will happen to the line fishery?

Of greater immediate concern is that while these interim measures are being put into place allowing line fishers to fish until such time as the appeals process has been dealt with by the Fisheries Minister, neither the Department nor the Minister, as the appellate authority, has confirmed that the estimated 18 rights set aside for appeals will be increased to the 235 rights that have actually not been allocated as yet and that are therefore available for allocation on appeal to those unsuccessful applicants who elect to lodge appeals. Should this undertaking not be given by the Minister, then an appeals process would be futile as no more than 18 appeals could succeed.

In addition, the department has still not made public individual right holder score and evaluation sheets, the written reasons for the decisions, the lists of unsuccessful applicants or the vessels and crew allocations granted to the 215 successful applicants. Without these basic documents, an appeal cannot be lodged.

And of course, the Minister has still not gazetted the grant of right fishing fees as is required under section 25(1) of the MLRA.

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