A number of persons have commented that whale (and therefore whale meat) is not "fish" but a marine mammal and, therefore does it not stand to reason that the Marine Living Resources Act does not apply and that DAFF is therefore correct that it does not have authority over the "whale meat" and the ALMA?
This is not correct because the MLRA defines "fish" extremely broadly as follows:
‘‘fish’’ means the marine living resources of the sea and the seashore, including any aquatic plant or animal whether piscine or not, and any mollusc, crustacean, coral, sponge, holothurian or other echinoderm, reptile and marine mammal, and includes their eggs, larvae and all juvenile stages, but does not include sea birds and seals".
Accordingly, the MLRA essentially does not apply to sea birds and seals only. The management of these animals are regulated in terms of a separate piece of legislation.
A further point raised by the fisheries department itself is that the vessel MV Alma is not a fishing vessel and as such the MLRA does not apply to such a vessel. This point once again does not hold water for the following reasons:
1. The MLRA defines a fishing vessel as follows:
‘‘fishing vessel’’ means any vessel, boat, ship or other craft which is used for, equipped to be used for or of a type that is normally used for fishing or related activities, and includes all gear, equipment, stores, cargo and fuel on board the vessel."
2. Accordingly, the MLRA defines a fishing vessel broadly to include "any vessel, boat, ship or other craft" equipped to be used for inter alia "related activities".
3. If one refers to the definition of "related activities" in section 1 of the MLRA, it is stated to include a vast array of activities, including -
"(c) refuelling or supplying fishing vessels, selling or supplying fishing equipment or performing any other act in support of fishing;
(d) exporting and importing fish or any fish product".
For these reasons, the South African fisheries department had a positive obligation to not only ensure that the MV Alma had on board only legally harvested whale meat but that it did not have on board any other possible illegally harvested or prohibited fish species and products. This vessel was after-all sailing through South African waters. Mindful of the fact that South Africa is vehemently opposed to the practice of whaling and of our national and international obligations regarding responsible fisheries and fishing practices, the Fisheries Department ought to have boarded the ALMA and inspected the vessel and not permitted it entry to our territorial waters.
DAFF failed on both counts, once again confirming just how unprotected South Africa's national and international fishing interests are.