It appears that the Department of Fisheries has forgotten that its mandate is determined by Section 2 of the Marine Living Resources Act. It is supposed to be committed to the sustainable management of our marine resources, having due and proper regard to internationally recognised management principles such as precaution and decisions based on the best available scientific evidence.
We understand that the Department is now proposing to allocate interim relief line fish quotas to squid fishing crew because of a closed season that has been urgently agreed to for the months of April, May and June as a result of the precarious state in which the squid resource finds itself.
The Department of Fisheries is not a social welfare agency and by allocating "interim relief" line fish quotas to squid fishing crew it is acting unlawfully and beyond its mandate. The line fishery is already a fishery managed in terms of section 16 of the MLRA (it is the only fishery recognised to be in an environmental emergency) and the fishing effort is fully allocated in this fishery. In other words, a responsible fisheries regulator, respectful and mindful of its legal obligations under section 2 of the MLRA, ought not to be handing out fishing quotas as if it is a welfare organisation. Unemployed squid fishing crew are supposed to be assisted by the state via the Unemployment Insurance Fund not unlawful handouts of line fish rights!
Further, what do squid fishers know about line fishing? How will they go fishing for line fish without fishing vessels? If they are so poor that they cannot afford to make daily ends meet, how will they fund a line fish operation (bait, ice, fuel, insurances etc)?
We would therefore expect the Acting DDG of DAFF to urgently recognise that the line fishery is a fishery in environmental crisis; that effort is already fully allocated in this fishery; and that it is nonsensical and impractical to even consider allocating "interim relief" line fish quotas to squid fishing crew who do not know how to catch line fish and who certainly do not have access to line fish vessels and the operational capital to undertake line fishing. Further, any allocation of "interim relief" would be irregular and unlawful as access to fish stocks can only be allocated in terms of section 18 of the MLRA, read with section 13. Section 81 (the frequently abused "exemption" provision) does not allow for such an allocation of "interim relief permits".
Our fishing resources are not to be utilised for political ends and as a social welfare mechanism.