Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Destruction of the Traditional Linefishery

The 2013 FRAP line fish decisions have decimated if not destroyed South Africa's traditional line fishery which dates back to the 1500's. Of the 450 traditional line fishers that held rights for the past 8 years (and most even longer for periods of between 30 and 40 years), only 115 were reallocated their fishing rights! That will result in the decimation of the line fishery resulting in huge job losses and business failures. It appears as if traditional line fish strongholds such as Kalk Bay, Arniston and much of the West Coast have been most affected. 

As with the tuna pole decisions, the decisions in the line fishery are similarly illegal and should be set aside should a review application be brought. 

The decision to exclude more than 330 traditional right holders however who have invested and created jobs over the past 8 years at least while allocating rights to new entrants who have little or no vested interests in the line fishery is particularly egregious. The decision will wipe out an estimated R90 million in investments and thousands of jobs. In addition, hundreds of line fishers who know nothing but fishing will now be left unemployed. To make matters worse, many right holders have funded their line fish businesses and maintenance of their vessels through home loans (as banks simply do not recognise fishing quotas as security). The loss of their fishing rights will now result in the loss of many homes as well. 

Long term right holders who fished regularly, complied with their annual permit conditions, created jobs and invested in their vessels and the creation of markets for their fish but were refused a second long term fishing right will have a legally enforceable "legitimate expectation" that their rights ought to have been re-allocated. The decisions are certainly apposite to the principles and objectives set out in the National Development Plan, which certainly does not promote the wholesale destruction of economic value and mass unemployment in such an important fishing sector. 

The decision to simply deny so many traditional line fishers their rights and their ability to earn a living certainly confirms that DAFF is not remotely interested in supporting traditional fishers, encouraging job creation and investment and stability in the fishing sector. More so, it confirms how dangerous and calamitous decisions by unqualified and unsuitable persons can be. 

It is our view that the decisions in the line fishery could be set aside on various grounds, including the macro-process flaws we have previously identified such as the unlawfulness of the fishing policies. However, the actual decision to exclude so many right holders in favour of new entrants could be reviewed on grounds such as the scoring, the fact that it again appears as though new entrants were scored, ranked and compared with long term right holder applicants and that new entrants were not required to show access to a suitable traditional line fish vessel as stipulated by the line fish policy.

Urgent meetings with line fishers are being held in Yzerfontein (West Coast fishers) at 10am on 2 January and at 10am at the Oceana Power Boat Club on Friday 3 January 2014 for the Cape Town-based line fishers. 

PS. It even appears as if a notorious Cape Gangster is now a new traditional line fish right holder! Talk about a disastrous allocation. 

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