Thursday, November 17, 2016

WCRL Fishery TAC Set for 2016/2017

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has determined the 2016/2017 WCRL fishery TAC, which includes catch and effort limitations for the commercial trap boat fishery, the small-scale hoop net sectors and the recreational fishery.

The global TAC determination has been set at 1924.08 tons, which is the same as the 2015/2016 season.

The 2016/2017 apportionment of TAC has been undertake in slightly different manner than previously with a separate allocation apportioned for small-scale lobster fishers in the Northern Cape. The apportionment of TAC is as follows:

  • Commercial Trap Boat sector: 1204.48 tons (previously 1243.48 tons); 
  • Small-scale hoop net sector: 376.10 tons (previously 376.10 tons);
  • Small-scale (Interim Relief Measure) sector: 235.30 tons (previously 235.30 tons);
  • Small-scale Northern Cape sector: 39 tons;
  • Recreational Fishing : 69.20 tons (previously 69.20 tons).
In addition to the setting of catch limits, the fishery will also be subjected to effort limitations restricting the time periods for catching lobsters in specific fishing zones. 

These effort restrictions are detailed here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

South Africa Issues Provisional Decisions on 15yr Term Fishing Rights

On Friday 11 November 2016, South Africa's Fisheries Management Branch issued a suite of provisional decisions in the high value capital intensive Horse Mackerel, Patagonian Toothfish, Large Pelagic and Hake Inshore Trawl fishery sectors.

The provisional decisions are for the allocation of 15yr long fishing rights, which are set to expire in 2031. 

Why Provisional Decisions? The intention behind issuing provisional decisions is to provide interested and affected parties an initial comment period on the provisional lists of successful and unsuccessful applicants. Importantly, it allows the decision-maker an opportunity to address any material oversights during the evaluation process and misrepresentations by applicants. 

What are the "General Published Reasons"? The General Published Reasons (GPR) document dates back to the first medium term fishing rights allocation process in 2001/2002. The GPR is a detailed record of the process underpinning the decision making process and a further record explaining the rationale for the decisions (both final and provisional). In addition, the GPR proposes how the total allowable catch or total applied effort for the fishery is to be allocated to the successful applicants. 

Do unsuccessful applicants have to appeal now? No. As the GPR presently only records provisional decisions, applicants cannot appeal the decisions until the final decisions are made after the the conclusion of the provisional decision-making process. All applicants and interested parties can comment at this stage on the provisional decisions and submit comments on the proposed quantum / effort allocation methodologies. 

By when must comments be submitted? Comment on the provisional decision lists and quantum/effort allocation methodologies for Horse Mackerel, Hake Inshore Trawl and Large Pelagics is due by 16h00 on Monday 12 December 2016. The only exception applies to the tooth fishery, where comments need to be submitted by no later than 16h00 on 25 November 2016. The reason for the shorter comment period in this fishery is because the season is set to commence on 1 December and the number of total applicants and potentially successful applicants are relatively small. 

1. Patagonian Toothfishery

The Patagonian Toothfishery GPR recording the provisional decisions can be accessed here. Of the 24 applications submitted for rights in this fishery, the provisional decision records the allocation of 1 right at this stage, with decisions on 5 applicants reserved pending further clarifications. 

Interestingly, the GPR notes that new entrants may be accommodated via a separate further call for applications under section 18, alternatively that a fishing rights leasing/tender process may be instituted under Section 22 of the Marine Living Resources Act. Section 22 has never before been used to allocate fishing rights and could provide an alternative allocation methodology to the current system (at least for high value, capital intensive, offshore fisheries).

2. Horse Mackerel

The Horse Mackerel GPR can be accessed here. Of the 80 applications submitted for rights in this fishery, the provisional decision records the allocation of 33 rights at this stage. Of the 33 rights allocated, 6 are to previous right holders (Category A applicants) and 27 to New Entrant applicants. 

3. Hake Inshore Trawl

The Hake Inshore Trawl GPR can be accessed here. Of the 156 applications submitted for rights in this fishery, the provisional decision records the allocation of 26 rights at this stage. Of the 26 rights allocated, 14 are to previous right holders (Category A applicants) and 12 to New Entrant applicants. 

4. Large Pelagics

The Large Pelagic GPR can be accessed here. Of the 128 applications submitted for rights in this fishery, the provisional decision records the allocation of 55 rights at this stage. Of the 55 rights allocated, 20 are to previous right holders (Category A applicants) and 35 to New Entrant applicants. 

The Large Pelagic fishery represents a fishery capable of substantial growth given South Africa's significantly increased Southern Bluefin quota which increased from 40 tons to 450 tons! As these tunas are the most valuable of the large pelagic species targeted by the fishery, the increased TAC allocation to South Africa by CCSBT should attract important investment and growth in the fishery. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

An Overview of the SA Shark Cage Diving Sector

On 14 September 2016, Feike provided a presentation to the Southern Africa CITES Shark & Ray Conservation Symposium on the economic importance of white shark shark eco-tourism as opposed to consumption-based shark harvesting fisheries. 

The data that follows is an adaptation of my presentation to the CITES Symposium. 

The South African shark cage diving sector was started in the 1990's by a group of entrepreneurs who identified the opportunities of taking tourists out to sea to experience white sharks in their natural environments. South Africa's white shark eco-tourism sector attained international attention shortly after the Discovery Channel produced "Air Jaws" which documented the "flying" great white sharks of the False Bay. This documentary featured Chris and Monique Fallows of Apex Predators, which is a leading white shark cage diving tour operation based in Simonstown, Cape Town. 

Feike is the legal adviser to the South African Great White Shark Protection Foundation, which represents 11 of the current 13 white shark cage diving operators. 

The SA white shark cage diving industry is regulated by the Dept of Environmental Affairs under the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998. All of the 13 operators are presently conducting their businesses  in terms of permits that are valid until August 2017. A permit re-allocation process is scheduled to take place before that date.  

The SA shark cage diving industry is relatively small in size, highly regulated and concentrated in two centres in the Western Cape, namely the False Bay and at Kleinbaai outside of Gansbaai. Of the 13 operators, 8 are located in the tiny harbour of Kleinbaai and 3 operate out of Simonstown in the False Bay. 

The SA white shark cage diving sector carries out an average of between 200 dive trips per annum (False Bay operators) and 375 trips per annum for Kleinbaai operators. The operators employ over 100 people directly. And the industry generates an estimated gross turnover of ±R60 million with sector expenditure at ±R48 million. 

For more information about South Africa's Great White Shark Protection Foundation and who its members are please visit its website at 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Growing Horse Mackerel Experimental Fracas

There is no doubt that the current litigation brought by the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) and former right holders in the horse mackerel fishery (excluding the largest current operator, Blue Continent Products (Pty) Ltd) against, inter alia, the Minister of Fisheries and Global Pact Trading 193 (Pty) Ltd (the recipient of the experimental permit) is newsworthy and of legal interest. For one, the litigation will determine the scope and extent of Ministerial power under Section 83 of the Marine Living Resources Act, which gives the Minister a wide discretion to permit any scientific or practical experiment. 

It is no secret that I was recently re-appointed by the Minister to advise him defend the case brought by SADSTIA and various members of the horse mackerel industry (the Applicants). The Minister had sought my services - as I understand - because of my previous successful advisory role as Chairperson of the 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process appeals committee (June 2015 - May 2016). As chairperson of the appeals committee, together with my colleagues Prof Julian Smith and Attorney, Mamakhe Mdhluli, we successfully navigated the treacherous appeals waters and prevented the Minister facing any litigation. 

In addition, my publicly stated support for the restructuring, expansion and re-alignment of the Horse Mackerel fishery has long been on record. As part of the drafting team who penned the 2005 Horse Mackerel Fishing Policy, I had personally drafted the "Objectives" clause of that Policy document which mandated the horse mackerel industry to re-think the way South African horse mackerel is processed and marketed. To this very day, our entire horse mackerel stock is caught by a single dedicated mid-water trawler on behalf of the entire industry. This catch is block-frozen at sea, transhipped and exported to countries such as Angola, Zambia and the DRC without creating a single job on South African soil. None of this low-value but protein rich fish is made available to poor South Africans (or any person living within our borders, for that matter).  

Unfortunately, the South African horse mackerel fishing industry maintained this status quo despite the above mentioned key policy objective of the long term horse mackerel fishing rights allocation. And of course, the Fisheries Department - for whatever reason - chose to support the maintenance of the status quo ... until at least December 2015 when an experimental permit was granted to Global Pact Trading 193 (Pty) Ltd to investigate the possibility of (a) expanding the size and extent of the horse mackerel fishery to the West Coast of South Africa and (b) landing horse and processing horse mackerel on South African soil and selling horse mackerel to South Africa's rural poor communities. 

The Global Pact application for an experimental horse mackerel permit was first made in August 2012 and was motivated and supported by Feike as consultants to Global Pact Trading 193 (Pty) Ltd and a Namibian fishing enterprise called Kuiseb Fishing. Unfortunately, this application was rejected by DAFF and subsequently the Minister at the time, Tina Joemat-Petterssen. In 2014, Global Pact, on the advice of a Cape Town-based attorney's firm subjected a fresh application which resulted in the successful issue of the current exploratory permit in December 2015. 

In July 2016, SADSTIA and the Applicants filed an application to interdict the Minister and Global Pact from fishing the exploratory permit and secondly to review and set side the Minister's decision to reject SADSTIA's appeal against the December 2015 decision to grant the permit. The SADSTIA application was authored by Dr Johan Augustyn, who had served as the Department's Chief Director of Fisheries Research until August 2014, whereafter he left government to join the Fishing Industry as the Secretary of SADSTIA. 

The State Respondents will be filing their answering affidavit in response to the SADSTIA application papers shortly. It is therefore impermissible for me to discuss or debate the content or nature of the answering papers. 

However, what is worth mentioning is that SADSTIA has seen fit in a supplementary affidavit to allege an apparent conflict of interest involving my role as the Minister's consultant adviser. It is quite ironic for SADSTIA and Dr Augustyn to make such an allegation given that there is no direct or indirect conflict of interest involving Feike or myself (as neither I nor Feike had any role to play in the decision to refuse or grant the permit application by Global Pact and of course the application we submitted on behalf of Global Pact Trading and Kuiseb Fishing in 2012 was rejected ... by Dr Augustyn in January 2013). 

And therein lays the irony of the allegation of a conflict of interest by SADSTIA and Dr Augustyn. Between 2012 and 2014 Dr Augustyn presided over a series of applications and decided against Global Pact (and thus maintained the status quo in the horse mackerel fishery which undeniably was in SADSTIA and the Applicants' collective interest).  

Dr Augustyn then resigned as Chief Director of Fisheries Research and took up employment as the secretary of SADSTIA, which is the very body he was responsible for overseeing and regulating as Chief Director. 

The allegations by SADSTIA and the Applicants that I am somehow conflicted in providing advisory services to the Minister on a matter I had no part in deciding does however further confirm the weakness of the substantive merits of their case. One raises vexatious and spurious allegations in a bid to distract judicial attention from the actual merits of ones case. 

Remember, while the Applicants have loudly proclaimed their decision to take the Minister on review in the media, they have conveniently been quiet of the fact that they had already abandoned their Part A application to seek an interdict against the Minister. One leg down, second to follow shortly. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Is SA's Lobster on the Verge of Collapse?

Are our famous West Coast rock lobster stocks on the verge of complete collapse? The sense by fishermen who attended a briefing by the Fisheries Department on 16 September 2016 seems to confirm an appreciable sense of panic by researchers and fisheries managers. 

The headline numbers for the fishery appear desperate. The TAC will be cut by no less than 30% this coming season to a global TAC of 1270 tons! The proposal is to further cut the TAC in 2017/2018 to 790 tons - that is a further 37% cut, equating to a 70% cut in catch allowances and income in 24 months! The economic hardship that this will cause in West and Southern Cape Coasts villages and towns will be massive. 

The TAC for areas 3&4 (Doring Bay, Lamberts Bay and Elands Bay) has been reduced by 42%. The TAC for areas 5%6 (St Helena Bay, Paternoster and Saldanha) has been reduced a whopping 65%. To make financial matters even worse for quota holders is that the allotted fishing months has been severely curtailed and fishing in most areas will be possible only when the usual lobster prices are at their seasonal lowest (between US$25/KG to US$32/KG). 

But these measures are certainly unavoidable - the alternative options are to either maintain catch limits or reduce it slightly with a complete biological failure of the stock in 3 to 5 years' time. 

However recovery of the fishery is far from certain. The biggest threats to the fishery are over capacity (too many quota holders exploiting smaller and smaller quotas) and poaching by both right holders and non-right holders. 

I have stated this repeatedly from day one when the Equality Court ordered the department in 2005 to accommodate an initial 800 more quota holders in the fishery. This number has escalated to more than 1900 today over and above the 840 nearshore right holders and 240 commercial operators who were legitimately granted long term fishing rights in 2004/2005. If ever there is a lesson for why courts and judges must not involve themselves in matters they are not qualified to understand and appreciate, the tragedy of our WCRL fishery is that lesson and case study. 

Back in 2004 before long term fishing rights were granted, the department's lobster scientists, compliance officers and fishery managers carefully and scientifically planned and determined the maximum sustainable number of quota holders that could be accommodated and managed in both the nearshore, small-scale and commercial fisheries. At that time South Africa's lobster stocks were  healthy having just recovered from decades of pillaging by companies such as Hout Bay Fishing Industries. Of course, not everyone who applied for a lobster fishing right - let alone every fisherman - could be accommodated and granted a fishing right. A fishing right is not a basic human right to which South Africans are entitled under our Constitution. It certainly is not an alternative to a social grant for the unemployed. But of course, the Equality Court (and the NGO's that egged them on) knew better and insisted that government must accommodate all fishermen who were denied fishing rights! 

And now thanks to that ill-conceived decision, lobster stocks are at less than 2% of historical pristine levels and poverty will surely be the defining characteristic of lobster fishermen from Port Nolloth to Arniston as their quotas are slashed by 70% over the next 2 seasons. 

But as quotas have been reduced (And will be reduced further over the next 2 seasons), poaching has skyrocketed. According to the department, illegal fishing has doubled over the past 3 years. Observing lobster vessels in Hout Bay harbour tells you that poaching is in fact the norm today. The landing of undersized and illegal catches are par for the course. 

Everyone and his dog knows about illegal lobster in bags sold openly in Paternoster. But large "legitimate" operators in the lobster fishery are themselves complicit in the illegal trade. So while the "interim relief" lobster fishers of Paternoster have been over-catching by an average of 90 tons a season (yes, 90 tons when their TAC is only 11 tons!) over the past 2 seasons, the question that we should be asking is, who is buying, processing and exporting these illegal harvests? 

The consequences for lobster fishermen are clear. In 2008, we were catching an average of 58 lobsters per trap in deep water Area 8. This season, average catches per trap have dropped to an uneconomical 20 lobsters. The lobster fishery has effectively volunteered to stop fishing well-before the 30 September regulated closure of the season. Of greater concern is that baby lobsters have repeatedly being brought up in the traps causing them stress and harm to their bodies, which means these young will be spending more time and energy recovering from these stresses than growing, which will mean even slower lobster biomass recovery rates - even if poaching was to be significantly reduced. 

As the country's most infamous poacher and wildlife criminal, Mr Bengis of Hout Bay Fishing Industries admitted to Marine and Coastal Management officials many years ago before he was incarcerated in a US Federal Prison, "if you thought I was a big poacher, think again..."

If we are going to seriously contemplate a lobster recovery DAFF will have to do three critical things immediately: 

1. Deal with illegal fishing by quota holders and non-quota holders. ALL Fishery Control Officers need to be independently monitored and subjected to lifestyle audits. The current system of deploying and managing fishery monitors who record catches needs complete overhauling. Monitors cannot be related to fishers and certainly cannot live in the same streets and towns as fishers and poachers. 

2. Reduce the number of people catching lobsters, whether in the interim relief, small-scale or commercial fishery sectors - but these numbers are just too large to sustainably support the available fish. 

3. The entire compliance management strategy needs overhauling - and not just for lobster monitoring and compliance. 

Right holders who are implicated in illegality serious permit violations must be immediately subjected to criminal processes and administrative penalties must include the termination of their lobster fishing rights and these persons should be disqualified from the upcoming 2016 lobster fishing rights allocation process. 

PS: See our tweets on the subject by following us on the Feike Handle @feikemanagement 

Monday, June 13, 2016

What is the Status of SA's Whale Watching and Shark Cage Diving Permits

South Africa's boat based whale watching and shark cage diving sectors are each represented by industry bodies formally recognised and authorised to represent members under the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998, which is the law governing whale watching and shark cage diving. The whale watching industry is represented by the SA Boat-Based Whale Watching Industry and the shark cage diving sector by the Great White Shark Protection Foundation. Feike is an advisor to both bodies.

The department responsible for these two sectors is the Department of Environmental Affairs. In early 2015, Industry representatives met with officials from DEA to remind them that permits in both sectors were set to expire at the end of June 2016 for the whale watching sector and at the end of August for the white shark diving sector. Industry offered to assist where possible with preparations for the permit re-allocation and renewal process. Both the whale watching and shark cage diving sectors undertook at their own cost substantive socio-economic surveys of their respective sectors and membership profiles. These surveys profiled members in areas such as black empowerment, investments in assets such as markets, boats, people and brands, areas that restricted growth, employment, profiles of tourists that undertake these eco-activities and tourist spend.

With two weeks to go before the whale watching permits are set to expire, DEA has confirmed that it has extended the validity of the whale watching sector and shark cage diving sector permits for another 12 months, valid until 30 June and 30 August 2017, respectively.

So, it is official, all SA whale watching and shark cage diving will continue beyond June 2016. Dont cancel your bookings .... please! 

For the list of permitted and authorised boat-based whale watching operators see the 
SABBWWA site here

For the list of permitted and authorised white shark cage diving operators, see the Foundation's site here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

In Summary: The FRAP 2013 Appeals

My next Maritime Review Africa article will provide a summation of the FRAP 2013 appeals process, including an analysis of the line fish appeals process that led to the publication of the Minister's final traditional line fish decisions in May 2016 . The FRAP 2013 appeals process took 10 months to conclude, highlighting that such administrative processes, if undertaken legally and diligently, take substantial planning and time. To rush these processes only causes significant harm to both the fishing industry and communities, on the one hand, and to the overseeing regulator - DAFF.

My article addresses the key mechanisms and processes that were implemented when evaluating and deciding the 567 traditional line fish appeals in particular. The article also addresses where the decisions leave the small-scale community-based fishing sector process and how the additional anticipated effort from these communities could conceivably be accommodated without decimating staple line fish species in each of the 3 main management zones. 

The article concludes with a summary of key FRAP 2013 appeals data, including the number of successful appeals by sector and the final black ownership profile of the successful appellants. The headline appeal numbers for the 8 fisheries are as follows.

"Over the 10-month appeals evaluation process, the Minister considered and decided a total of 1038 appeals. Of these, 333 appellants (or 32%) were successful. The average black economic empowerment profile of the 8 fisheries post the appeals stands at 66.57%."

The article will be available here shortly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

China's Defence of 3 IUU Vessels. Is it Valid?

The Daily Dispatch reports that China has officially stated that its arrested fishing vessels were fishing legally and had the necessary permits and China was seeking "prompt and appropriate settlement” of the investigation “in line with the friendship and cooperation between our countries”.

While it is clear that the arrested fishing vessels,  the MFV Fu Yuan Yu 7880, MFV Fu Yang Yu 7881 & MFV Run Da 617, are authorised by the South Pacific Regional Fishery Management Organisation to harvest fish in the South Pacific Convention Area only. These vessels are authorised to use pole and line gear when fishing in the Convention Area waters.

This High Seas fishing license certainly does not authorise these vessels to enter South African waters and more importantly does not permit these vessels to fish in SA waters.

As none of the arrested vessels had section 39 licenses issued by the Fisheries Department under the Marine Living Resources Act to enter our EEZ, the vessels committed a serious violation of our law. It is akin to a foreign national crossing a South African terrestrial border illegally through a hole in the proverbial border fences. Such a violation carries a R5 million penalty plus possible forfeiture of the IUU vessel, arrest of the Captain and officers, and forfeiture of all fish on board the vessel.

There are numerous other less serious violations that the vessels may be guilty of under the MLRA and other SA laws.

China - as the flag state - should provide the South African fisheries department with all VMS data for each of the arrested vessels from the time these vessels entered our waters to determine if they were illegally fishing while having entered our waters illegally (i.e. without having been granted permission under section 39 of the MLRA). The VMS data will conclusively establish the intentions of these vessels while in SA waters.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What if Lobster is Downgraded to SASSI's Red List?

What if our famed West Coast Rock lobster is downgraded to SASSI's Red List? Or should the question instead read "When..."?

Will that save lobster stocks from complete decimation? What will the socio-economic consequences be? Of course, strictly speaking that is not SASSI's mandate or direct concern. SASSI's colour coding of fish stocks is determined by the biological and ecological health of the fishery concerned. However, given that our lobster stocks have been sitting at between 3% and 2% of pristine for some time now, that SASSI had not red listed lobster a few years ago, confirms that the organisation is indeed mindful of the socio-economic impacts of red-listing such a crucial small-commercial fishery. 

Indeed, if abalone has been on the red list for years now, why has lobster similarly not been classified as red? 

The reality is that while placing lobster on the red list may have little to no consequences for the export-driven offshore commercial fishery, the small-scale fishery (which has much higher levels of mortalities) depends substantially more on local consumers, including fish mongers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and some retailers to buy their frozen whole or tailed products. 

Listing lobster on the red list may not only hurt the legal small-scale nearshore fishery by reducing the pool of responsible local consumers, but will certainly reduce the market value of locally available lobsters. This is in turn will almost certainly increase the illegal trade in lobsters given that small-scale fishers will seek to make up the loss in income through increasing lobster catches. 

The only viable solution to fixing the lobster crisis is to urgently reduce the number of persons who harvest nearshore stocks and re-examine how inshore fishery compliance for high value stocks is undertaken. The number of persons accessing lobster (whether through section 18 rights or via the interim relief process) grew from just more than 800 small-scale fishers back in 2004 (when the lobster TAC was at its highest in South African history) to more than 2500 today, which includes an estimated 1700 interim relief fishers. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

What about those "Chinese" IUU Ships in SA Waters?

So what do we know to date about the "Chinese" named but apparently flag-less vessels spotted in SA  waters? 

According to the Minister of Fisheries, Mr Zokwana, the fleet of brand new fishing vessels were sailing to the Congo from China. Apparently, they were new-build vessels for an unnamed Angolan fishing company. 

It would appear that after they were intercepted by the EPV Lilian Ngoyi in South African waters near the Bird Island Group MPA, the fleet received instructions from the owners to split up and ignore all instructions from South African authorities proceed to port. 

The result is that an estimated 8 vessels have escaped while 1 vessel has been arrested and is presently in Table Bay Harbour. 

What is apparent is that these fishing vessels entered the SA EEZ without having first been given permission to do so under the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998. That would amount to a violation of section 39 of the MLRA. A violation of section 39 carries a fine of R5 million, together with the possible forfeiture of the vessel (and any fish on board). 

Further violations include failing to adhere to the lawful instructions of a fishery control officer. In addition, if the vessel is indeed flag-less, the vessel is a de facto pirate vessel under international law.

It is unclear at this stage whether they were engaged in IUU fishing in our waters although the citizen reports on the Facebook Page "Saltwater Fishing" seem to indicate that the vessels may very well have been targeting sardines - which is unlikely. It is more probable that the vessels were targeting large pelagic fish species that follow the sardine shoals. These prized large pelagic species would include sharks (for fins) and tunas and swordfishes. 

The Minister has indicated that the arrested vessel, once forfeited to the state, will not be sold on auction but will instead be converted to a patrol vessel. This strategy is to be applauded given that South Africa requires additional at-sea patrolling capabilities and new-build vessel programmes will not be funded by the National Treasury at this time. If we recall, South Africa converted the lobster poaching vessel Eagle Star back in 2003 and used it successfully as a patrol vessel until it was inexplicably sold in about 2007 for less than the value of the diesel on board the vessel. 

In so far as the remaining 8 IUU vessels are concerned, it does appear that South Africa has ceased pursuing the vessels and as such the vessels are not subject to hot pursuit. However, South Africa needs to share all relevant information with neighbouring states, including the Congo (the country of intended destination) and Angola (the apparent domicile of the new vessel owner), that these vessels are suspected of IUU fishing in SA waters and that they need to denied port entry under the provisions of the Port State Measures Agreement. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016


On 8 March 2016, the Fisheries Minister announced his provisional set of appeal decisions in the traditional line fishery. Of the 564 appeals considered, the Minister decided to provisionally grant line fish rights to - 

  • 169 appellants in Zone A;
  • 22 appellants in Zone B; and
  • 15 appellants in Zone C. 
The provisional decisions were issued for public comment and scrutiny until 28 March 2016. The Minister appointed the forensic audit firm, Sizwe Ntsaluba & Gobodo Inc ("SNG"), to oversee the provisional list and comment process. During the "provisional list" process, the Minister received 127 comments and complaints in total.  

The appeals advisory team has been briefed on all investigations undertaken and completed by SNG. The appeals advisory team will be spending the remaining time this week finalising the recommendations to be presented to the Minister, whereafter the Minister will consider the appeals and issue his final set of decisions on the traditional line fish appeals. It is anticipated that the final appeal decisions will be published during the course of the second week of May 2016. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Avoid Lobster Mortalities & Reap the Profits

Any lobster fisherman knows that a live lobster is better than a dead or dying lobster. The difference is literally worth a small fortune and means a great deal for small-scale lobster fishers particularly who have much smaller quotas than the larger commercial operators.

Having observed the way lobsters are fished, handled, transported and packed over the years, it is little wonder why lobster mortality rates in the small-scale and interim relief sectors are so high. High mortalities not only affect the incomes generated by these fishers, but also - I would argue - support the rampant growth in the illegal fishing of lobsters so as to make up for income losses.

Why has the conversation in the lobster fishery not shifted from arguments about more and more quotas to how do we maximise incomes and profits from the sale of lobsters based on current quota sizes? Why have fishers organisations, including the West Coast Rock Lobster Industry Association, Coastal Links and SAUFF, not invested in training small scale lobster fishers in techniques to ensure lower (if not near zero) mortality rates and higher market prices?

For example, how many lobster fishers appreciate that proper and delicate handling techniques immediately after harvesting are crucial to ensuring lobster survival and health? Lobsters are delicate animals as a result of their strange anatomy. Lobster's also suffer stress quite easily which results in mortality. So treat them gently and with care and reap the financial rewards.

Here are some handling tips:

  • Whether using traps or hoop nets, ensure that lobsters are lifted slowly and carefully from the water to avoid inducing unnecessary stress and damage. 
  • Dont dump your harvest on the deck or in the bins. Remove lobsters from the traps / net gently.
  • Keep lobsters moist with sea water - fresh water over their gills (from ice) can increase mortality.
  • When packing them, don't overpack bins. Use moist and soft packaging to cushion them and make sure they all face the same direction. 
  • Do everything to avoid stressing lobsters. Avoid unnecessary and substantial temperature shifts, low oxygen levels, exposure to high ammonia levels or other dissolved toxins, changes in salinity, crowding and aggression.
  • Once placed in purging tanks (especially after they have been out of sea water for some time), ensure that lobsters are moved from the initial purging tank to another as they release built-up ammonia shortly after being placed back into sea water. You don't want your freshly purged lobsters to remain in ammonia saturated waters as this will increase mortality rates substantially. 

The FRAP 2013 Fixer-Upper

The catastrophe that was the 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process involving 8 commercial and small-scale commercial fisheries and 979 right holders is finally on the cusp of being remedied ... at least as best as one can repair a fishing rights allocation process as flawed, irrational and damaging to our fishing communities as the 2013 process has been. 

I, together with Mamakhe Mdhuli (an attorney from Johannesburg) and Professor Julian Smith (former Vice Rector at Stellenbosch), commenced the FRAP 2013 remedial process some 10 months ago on the instruction of Minister Senzeni Zokwana and with the support the current DDG of Fisheries, Ms Siphokazi Ndudane. I was initially approached by the Minister and Ms Ndudane more than 12 months ago to determine whether I would consider assisting the Minister repair the damage caused by the ill-advised FRAP 2013 process. 

The extent of the remedial process has been limited to what we - as an appeals advisory team - could lawfully undertake given the extremely flawed foundations upon which the FRAP 2013 were initially determined. 

A key concern identified by the Minister across all 8 fishery sectors that he has considered to date (including the more than 560 traditional line fish appeals awaiting final determination), is that fishing rights were allocated to so many new entrants who did not have access to suitable or any fishing vessels and who lacked any ability and knowledge to fish. That would explain why less than 25% of all allocated hake handline fishing rights were activated in 2015. Or why less than 10% of new entrants in the traditional line fishery applied for a fishing permit since having been allocated a right since January 2014. 

The allocation of fishing rights to applicants who do not have access to vessels; who do not know how to fish; or do not have the resources and capital to put a vessel to sea because they cannot pay for fuel, bait, insurance or crew costs means that fish prices go up due to reduced supply and less local crew have jobs. Just consider the price of fish over Easter since 2014. Snoek prices before Easter 2014 hovered at R150 a fish. Easter 2016 saw snoek at R200 and more. Low income households who depend on local line caught fish (snoek, Hottentot, geelbek, Roman) as a food source simply cannot afford these prices. 

The Minister is presently wrapping up the traditional line fish appeals process. There are a number of investigations being undertaken by the forensic audit firm, Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, which arose from the provisional list comment period. These investigations principally concern appellants who may have misrepresented their involvement in the fishery, their catch performance or their compliance history. 

The FRAP 2013 remedial measures will continue for some time after the Minister announces the final decisions in the traditional line fishery. Principal amongst these will be the cancellation of fishing rights allocated to persons who have failed to utilise their rights since 2014. Other measures will include monitoring the ongoing catching performance of right holders, especially those in the shark demersal fishery to ensure that CITES listed species are not targeted and harvested. In the white mussel fishery, the new management system of allocating multiple rights in most of the seven harvesting zones needs monitoring to determine if it meets the objectives set by the Minister.