Monday, May 19, 2014

Is Fisheries Going Back to Environmental Affairs?

The most recent news coming out of the fisheries department (besides the admission that they completely cocked up an entire rights allocation process which has to be re-done at huge cost to the taxpayer and the SA fishing industry), is that there is serious talk that the Fisheries Branch will either revert back to the Department of Environmental Affairs or be established as a stand-alone new ministry! 

Exclamation mark, indeed. Only 5 years ago, I drafted an opinion which was submitted to the President   (I was told) explaining why fisheries and environmental affairs should not be split. Of course, being grossly stupid and naive I explained that the split will run counter to an important principle such as "integrated oceans and marine ecosystem management" and that of course the costs of creating an entire bureaucracy called the Oceans and Coasts Branch in the Environmental Affairs department to essentially oversee sea water (but not the fish), whale watching and shark cage diving did not make much sense. 

I can however accept that compared to the fisheries branch under Joemat-Pettersson, the Oceans and Coasts Branch under the serial under-performer, Monde Mayekiso, appears to be the hallmark of stability and performance. We must not forget though that under the good Dr Mayekiso, the Marine and Coastal Management Branch simply forgot to allocate mussel and oyster rights back in 2007 and 2008, respectively. At least Mayekiso did not even try to stuff up a rights allocation process. 

Eish, how low, our expectations go! 

Given that my advice is never heeded by these "powers" that be (albeit that I have yet to be proven incorrect - smiley face symbol) and this article is just too short to just end here, here are my thoughts on what this government could do.

Wish. Appoint Adv Johnny de Lange as Minister of Fisheries (or any other honest and committed LEADER) and hand him the fisheries branch as a stand-alone ministry and department with the instruction to grow the fisheries sector by adding 4 more commercial fisheries in the next 5 years;  he must double aquaculture output; significantly improve the health of the lobster sector (and start by halting the interim relief allocations within 6 months by introducing an industry-funded buy-back and recovery programme); commence a holistic review of the Marine Living Resources Act and its outdated 1998 Regulations; amend the MLRA immediately to roll-over the 2015 fishing rights to 2020 so as to fix the Fisheries Department; and implement Chapter 6 of the NDP. Just some initial big-picture thoughts. 

Alternative Wish. Just dont surprise us and cock-up this sector even more, which, trust me could be achieved given the high-value fishing rights up for allocation next year. 

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