Thursday, April 17, 2014

Small Fishing Harbours in DA Spotlight

The Democratic Alliance today announced that it considers the current state of mismanagement that continues to afflict South Africa's small fishing harbours to be a stranglehold on local development and job creation, particularly affecting the Western Cape. Of South Africa's 12 fishing harbours, 11 are located in the Western Cape. A 2011 SA Institute of Engineers Report stated the following about our fishing harbours:

"The 2001-2007 repair and maintenance programme, to the value of R440 million, restored all 12 harbours to an excellent condition. A regular, planned maintenance programme implemented immediately would have consolidated this upgrade of harbour infrastructure."

Between 2007 and the present, very little harbour management and maintenance have been carried out. Some harbours such as Kalk Bay and St Helena Bay are in much better state than others but remain poorly managed and under-utilised with very little effective utilisation of sea space for small-scale fish farming and other entrepreneurial local economic development.

Feike has for some time raised the shocking state of our fishing harbours. The most notoriously mismanaged fishing harbour has to be the largest one too! Hout Bay harbour is in a dreadful state. Under the joint maladministration of the fisheries and public works departments, the harbour has degenerated into a centre for organised crime and illegal fishing. Consider the pictures below of Hout Bay harbour and the sunken wrecks that pollute the repair jetty area preventing access to vital harbour space. 

Hout Bay harbour is a classic case study of harbour mismanagement. Fishery control officers are known to openly turn a blind eye to the most blatant forms of abalone and lobster poaching. Criminals operate freely in the harbour and no boat is safe from being stripped bare overnight by the marauding thugs and drug addicts that easily access the harbour precinct. You can regularly observe abalone and lobster poachers offload their catches within a 100m of the fishery control office and then wave goodbye to the FCO's with their illegal catches in tow. 

The harbour begs to be developed into a proper working fishing harbour, supported by small-scale community-based fish farming ventures (such as mussel and oysters) and complemented by a flourishing tourism economy. 

The Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 (MLRA) states that the Fisheries Minister has the authority to proclaim certain harbours as "fishing harbours". However, the South African Constitution makes it quite clear that the regulation and administration of all harbours (other than the regulation of national and international shipping) vests in local governments and not with national government. 

The argument therefore is that fishing harbours should be administered and regulated by the applicable local government authority in whose jurisdiction the harbour is located. We would certainly support this view. This would allow competent and effective local municipalities to unlock the incredible value of our fishing harbours and to put in place measures to prevent them from being used as convenient thoroughfares for various types of organised crime. 

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