Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Squid: Status Quo Maintained

It appears that the precarious biological status of the squid resource, coupled with the fact that the fishery has a number of large commercial operators such as Premier Fishing, I&J and Pioneer Fishing, saved the fishery from the irrational and nonsensical decisions that have plagued other fisheries such as the shark demersal, tuna and line fish sectors. 

No new entrants were granted a right notwithstanding that the squid fishery has historically lagged other commercial fisheries in the area of black economic empowerment. However, decision-making in this sector appears to have recognised that what the fishery required more than anything else is stability, continuity and re-investment by current right holders to ensure that South Africa's share of the lucrative European market for squid is not lost. 

What remains a mystery - as is the case with the other decisions - is the effort allocations to right holders. The squid fishery is unique when it comes to the allocation of effort. Back in 2000, the department and the squid industry agreed on a formula for the allocation of effort (or number of crew) per vessel depending on which effort category the vessel fell into. This formula was re-adopted in 2005 in terms of the effort allocation mechanism that was adopted for the squid fishery. The department has not yet published its proposed effort allocation formula for the fishery and if it attempts to unilaterally force a formula onto the sector, this would be unlawful. Given the corner the department finds itself in, it is entirely likely that the current effort allocation methodology will simply be implemented again. 

However what is increasingly apparent is that the squid season requires further shortening to reduce catching effort on the squid resource. The reduction in the number of right holders from 121 to the current 93 should be welcomed in the quest to further curtail effort.

Note: It is our view though that the overarching decision-making process for this fishery remains susceptible to a successful judicial review. For example, the decision to allocate fishing rights for a period of 7 years remains unsupported by any rational or considered reasoning; many of the exclusionary criteria set out in the GPR are unrelated to what is stipulated and defined to be exclusionary criteria in the Squid policy; and there appears to be  significant disconnect between the objectives set out in the Squid policy and the stated outcomes in the Squid GPR. 

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