Saturday, February 22, 2014

DAFF Backs Creation of Hake Handline Paper Quotas and Fronting

It is now official. The Department of Fisheries is actually supporting the creation of an entire class of paper quotas in sectors such as the hake handline fishery. The Department has allocated hake handline fishing rights to applicants without any regard to whether they have a suitable vessel and where they reside. 

The consequence is that we now have Departmental officials unlawfully phoning previous right holders and begging them to make their fishing vessels available to certain specific "new entrant" right holders. This confirms that the Department has allocated nearshore fishing rights to people who are not fishers and who are unable to fish the resource for which they have been allocated rights. We again ask: How does this support "transformation" and "food security" as the Department repeatedly spews forth? 

If these new entrant right holders cannot fish their fishing quotas, who is going to do so? And how will this benefit the SA fishing industry and our ability land prime quality hakes for export and domestic markets? 

The information available to Feike and the SA Commercial Line Fishers Association is that to this day, not a single new entrant right holder in the hake handline or traditional line fishery has put their boats to sea. And those new entrants who have tried to negotiate access to a suitable line fish vessel have delusions of massive profits being handed to them each month while they lazily sit at home getting fat off the work of "white boat owners" and their legitimate crew. These new entrants refuse to even contemplate going to sea or raising any money to fund the operational costs of putting a boat to sea (such as fuel and bait costs, insurances and wages etc). All they want is to trade their paper quotas for monthly cheques and the Department of Fisheries is now aiding and abetting this illegality. 

According to the shocking statistics issued by the SA Commercial Line Fishers Association today, the majority of 87 hake handline fishing rights have been allocated to quota holders who do not live anywhere near the hake fishing grounds and will therefore never be able to fish these inshore quotas. 

What these allocations confirm is that the decision-maker, Mr Desmond Stevens, simply does not have the most basic understanding of the fishery and its economic drivers. The hake handline fishery is an economically marginal fishery operated by small boats launching from local slipways and harbours on the southern (east of Cape Infanta) and eastern Cape Coasts until about Port Alfred. The fishery also operates for about 3 months of the year. Hake handliners were therefore all allocated traditional line fish quotas as well to ensure that fishing can take place through the year. 

The 2013 FRAP process has destroyed this fishery as well by allocating the majority of fishing rights to people who have absolutely no connection to the hake handline fishery and who can only hope to be fronts for real fishers. 

The SA Commercial Line Fishers Association confirmed that hake handline rights have been allocated to - 

  • 20 people in the the Cape Peninsula region;
  • 11 on the west Coast;
  •  1 in Port Nolloth;
  •  1 in Riebeek Kasteel;
  •  1 in Midrand (!!!);
  •  14  between Hawston and Arniston.
If one understands the geography and economy of the fishery, these 48 right holders will never be able to afford to physically put a vessel to sea and fish their own hake handline fishing quotas. And the Department of Fisheries knows this full well. For this reason, DAFF officials have been frantically phoning known boat owners to convince them to fish these quotas on behalf of these "new entrant" fronts. 

Again, is this what we are told is the "transformation" of the fishery? The Minister and her department must explain whether "fronting" and the creation of "paper quotas" is their new official policy. And once again, this conduct by the Department is directly apposite to Chapter 6 of the National Development Policy. So what if the Department now tells us that 90% of right holders in the hake handline fishery are black? How does this help us when they cannot fish the fish we need to put food on tables, export quality SA branded hake, create jobs and pay taxes? If this is "transformation", then we certainly dont want any part of it. 

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