The New Age newspaper today reports that according to the Department of Fisheries, abalone right holders should not worry as their fishing rights will be allocated before 31 July 2014 when these rights expire. According to the Department's Lionel Adendorf, the department is awaiting advice from their scientists because of the precarious biological state of the abalone resource.
It is dishonest and disingenuous statements like these that result in widespread anger and backlash against the department such as we recently witnessed with the failed 2013 fishing rights allocation process.
Instead of admitting failure with respect to developing and implementing a fishing rights allocation process for the abalone sector, we are again saddled with this unconscionable spin. First, we were told by the woeful Tina Joemat-Pettersson that abalone right holders will be allocated red steenbras to fish! When that laughable statement was exposed for the lie it is, we are now told that rights will be allocated before expiry in 45 days' time! What ridiculous nonsense will they expect the fishing industry to swallow next?
The department appears hell-bent on deepening the various crises already afflicting the fishing industry by refusing to acknowledge their failures and limitations.
The fact is, more than 300 abalone fishing rights will expire on 31 July 2014 and the department has once again simply not developed a plan, timetable or any process to cater for the re-allocation of these fishing rights. To compound the problem, the department's own legal review report on the 2013 fishing rights allocation process confirms that at least 3 years is required to properly and effectively develop and implement a fishing rights allocation process - NOT 45 days!
So, the department must - FOR ONCE - be honest with itself, our fishing communities, the abalone industry and the South African public. What is it going to do in the next 45 days to ensure that abalone fishers are not abandoned and more socio-economic harm thrust upon our small-scale fishing communities? What we certainly do not need is more dishonesty and pie-in-the-sky solutions that can only result in failure ... AGAIN.
We require tangible, lawful and practical solutions that take into consideration the investments by right holders, our international markets and pertinently the social and economic interest of our fishing communities that rely on abalone fishing. The only possible solution is an urgent Parliamentary amendment to section 18(6A) of the Marine Living Resources Act to make provision for the extension of abalone fishing rights beyond 31 July 2014.