Monday, June 2, 2014

The Second MLRA Amendment Act: And Down the Garden Path We Go Again!

The Second Marine Living Resources Amendment Act was signed into law by the President on 19 May 2014. The Amendment Act essentially replaces the term "subsistence" in the original version of the Act with the term "small-scale commercial" and makes provision for fishing rights to be allocated to co-operatives or rather to members of coastal communities who will be herded into "fishing co-operatives" on the promise of untold riches and access to ocean's wealth. In other words, a social-welfare system using what fish we have left in our waters to placate the growing unemployed and unemployable! 

Feike has previously stated (and we repeat (siiigghh) that the allocation of high-value commercial fishing rights on a "co-operative" basis has been shown to be a profound failure in this country. What our history shows us is that where community-based fishing allocations have been previously attempted, it only led to massive overfishing, intra-community strife and corruption. 

The Public Protector's office is currently investigating allegations by members of fishing communities such as Stanford where the community has been split down the middle resulting in substantial conflict with allegations of corruption and nepotism against the departmentally anointed "community-leader" who has taken it upon himself to decide who gets to share in the quotas and who does not. The communities of Doringbaai and Ebeneser on the West Coast are another classic case. And further north, the isolated community of Hondeklipbaai is yet another. 

Feike has again and again asked why the Fisheries Department is insisting on allocating fishing rights to co-operatives when the department's own "flag-ship" co-operative project is an abject failure in Doringbaai. And of course the epitome of failure, the South African Commercial Fishermens Co-operative (SACFC), which left more than 3000 fishermen from coastal communities destitute because of an insistence to allocate quotas on a "co-operative" basis. 

When asked to give examples of successful co-operatives during the Parliamentary hearings on the Amendment bill, the Department's Dennis Fredericks had the audacity to point to the agricultural sector! Which of course is like comparing the proverbial chalk and cheese.

So what would motivate those that are such ardent supporters of this "co-operative" project to persist  given the history and current experiences of community conflict and failure? Could it be that what is profoundly evident from, but common to each of these failed experiments is that some connected individuals who get in at the "ground floor" as it were stand to make a huge amount of money while the sheeple that make up the "community" get screwed? 

Who benefited from the SACFC pillage? Who is actually benefitting from the interim relief quota allocations in Stanford and other Southern Cape villages? Certainly not the "fishermen" or the "community" as they remain as poor as ever. 

And of course if anyone at the department of fisheries actually understood fisheries management and its complexities, they would be asking themselves why are the best and most sustainably managed fisheries around the world managed in terms of individual quota management regimes and not this failed system of "co-operative" quotas? What makes the pursuit of excellence and success so reprehensible to these decision-makers in the department? 

Just as we warned about the impending failures of the FRAP 2013, we warn about this blind insistence to allocate quotas to co-operatives in the face of a history of failure. Why are still trying to debate whether the best shape for the wheel is a circle with the Fisheries Department and its ideologues insisting that the square is superior? 

I put this question to the Fisheries Portfolio Committee when this amendment bill was being debated but of course they refused to address the issue. Who will face the starving fishermen and their families when these co-operative projects all fail dismally ... again?

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