It is the parlance of our time. Ask any politician what he aims to do with the sector he is supposedly presiding over in this country and he will say that he must "transform" it or "accelerate the transformation". Stock standard. One answer fits all. The reality is that it is gobbledegook aimed solely at appeasing the growing masses of people who all want "some more" from the same pot. Pity Mr Bumble today!
The soup pot is nearing empty but the Olivers are demanding much more than the pot can imagine to offer. The problem is that our Mr Bumbles keep promising more soup for years without bothering to go to the market and get more ingredients and re-stock the kitchen.
That of course explains (in great part) why our nearshore stocks such as lobster and abalone are being plundered at breathtaking rates.
In my upcoming article in Maritime Reporter, I once again make the case that there is little sense in allocating interim relief lobster exemptions as they are nothing more than poverty traps, forcing communities into conflict and decimating resources as the quotas are just too small.
The greatest problem that we face is the current and ongoing failed economic rant led by this government that focusses almost exclusively on the “redistribution” narrative. Unless we dump the idea of taking away from one to give to another (i.e. to punish the "previously advantaged"), failure is certain.
Our focus should surely be on expanding the fisheries economy not repeatedly divvying it up into smaller and smaller portions.
Feike has for years stated that our focus must be to simultaneously expand small-scale fish farming while also opening up new fisheries to exploitation. In 2008, the South African Presidency - then under the umbrella economic programme referred to as TIPS - accepted our suggestions for expanding the South African fisheries economy, which can be read here.
Our rather simple suggestions are the following:
1. Invest in the rapid expansion of pond-based fresh water farms such as tilapia to spur small-scale fish farming. Tilapia are hardy fish not easily susceptible to disease and they don’t require expensive feed. They are fast growing and reproduce rapidly and markets exist for tilapia of course. Consider that a poor, tiny and water poor country like Swaziland has more than 1000 small-scale pond based tilapia farmers.
2. Freeing up “dead" water space and factory space in harbours such as Hout Bay and St Helena to support oyster and mussel farming. We appear fixated as a country that the only marine species we should be farming is abalone.
3. Commercialising the Octopus fishery. This fishery has been an experimental fishery for some 8 years. The time is opportune for its commercialisation to spur investment and growth. We have established markets for octopus in Australia and elsewhere.
4. Develop an alikreukel fishery. Markets exist. It is a high-value inshore resource, which can be exploited exclusively by small-scale fishers.
5. Develop a "perdevoet" or limpet fishery. Again markets exist and it is also a high-value inshore resource perfect for small-scale commercial fishing.
6. Develop a round herring fishery. Once again, markets exist especially in the EU and it is a valuable pelagic resource that should be established as a distinct small-scale commercial small pelagic fishery.
7. Expand the horse mackerel fishery by committing proper research and moving away from the current practice of setting MPCL’s as opposed to a scientifically sound TAC.
8. Expand the value of the South African seaweed sector by investing in resources to develop more lucrative markets for our seaweeds, such as the rapidly growing organic health food and supplement industries.
It is incredible that despite the existence of these very real opportunities for growth and expansion, our fisheries managers remain unable to implement these possibilities. Instead, we will spend millions of rands on yet another never-to-succeed mega-project (such as Operation Phakamisa) and decades carving up overexploited fisheries in the name of "transformation". And then we wonder why nothing has transformed... for the better.