Having bungled the entire 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP), the Department has now confirmed the bungling of the 2014 abalone fishing rights allocation process. The Fisheries Minister has today (31 July) announced that abalone fishers will be exempted from holding section 18 abalone fishing rights until 30 July 2015 because the department failed to timeously allocate abalone fishing rights when these expired yesterday (30 July 2014).
Fisheries management in this country has completely imploded. We now simply move from one crisis to the next; chaos is the defining tone; we simply no longer expect responsible and successful fisheries management. We have ruined our history of managing fisheries by means of lawful and legitimate long term fishing quotas and instead regressed to a previous century defined by chaos, illegality, management by "exemptions" and corruption. Is this "transformation"? Regression?
How does chaos, illegality and unpredictable "exemptions"help black empowerment? Which institution will invest in a black entrepreneur in the fishing industry when he has an "exemption"? Who will dare lend money to small-scale fishers with "exemptions" to fund a new vessel, or new engines?
We once ran our 22 commercial and small-scale fisheries in terms of long term fishing rights allocated under section 18 of the MLRA. Long term fishing rights - the Cabinet was told in 2005 - would not only promote investment in our fisheries (and therefore job creation) but it would spur black investment (and therefore deepen transformation and equitable access to our fisheries). Importantly, long term fishing rights the world over proved to reduce illegal and irresponsible fishing because right holders had a long term stake or "ownership" in the fisheries which meant it was in their interests to fish responsibly and displace illegality.
The fatal combination of incompetence, cadre deployment, corruption and maladministration and senior management without the skills required to manage fisheries has now effectively ruined no less than 10 fishing sectors which are now all "managed" in terms of "exemptions".
The interim relief lobster sector has been operating under exemption for 8 years now! What is "interim" about this? It will soon commence its 9th season! Each of the 8 sectors ruined by the incompetence, nepotism and maladministration of the FRAP 2013 are now managed under "exemptions". And now so will abalone.
In 6 months time, we will no doubt add the large pelagic fishery to this list of "exemption" managed fisheries and then lobster, seaweed, hake trawl, horse mackerel and the other fishing rights that ought to be re-allocated in 2015.
Incidentally, the Fisheries Minister also acknowledged his department's failure to commence the current abalone fishing season timeously when he agreed to extend the current season to 30 September 2014. Accordingly, abalone right holders will be entitled to continue fishing until 30 September 2014.