On Friday 14 May 2021, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (or whatever it calls itself these days) published three sets of draft Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Surveys (SEIAS) in the demersal shark, hake long line and hake deep sea trawl fishery sectors. On Monday 17 May 2021, a fourth & fifth draft SEIAS for the small pelagic and tuna pole fisheries were published. It is uncertain as to whether any other SEIAS were published as the department has not published any of these documents on its website, in the government gazette or in any newspapers as required by law.
Comments on each of these five drafts are due at 16h00 on 27 May 2021. It must be noted that as at 15:00 on 17 May 2021, there is no mention of these documents and the comment period on www.environment.gov.za, the Minister's twitter account or the department's official twitter page.
There is no possible justification or rational reason for such an abbreviated notice and comment period which is a violation of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, which requires a minimum 30-day notice and comment time period. PAJA also requires publication of the notices inviting comment in at least one newspaper in each of the four coastal provinces. Emailing the draft documents to industry bodies and to certain individuals simply does not meet legal muster.
Accordingly, the procedural publication of these drafts is legally flawed and reviewable. Not a good start.
What about the actual content? This initial article will focus on the hake long line and hake trawl SEIAS. We will consider subsequent articles which will focus on the small pelagic and tuna pole SEIAS.
Our twitter followers will no doubt have seen my scathing remarks about the Friday drafts. The two draft hake SEIAS are truly awful; irrelevant; inapplicable to the sectors concerned; they don't contain ANY social or economic data on the hake fisheries (long line or trawl); they are filled with typos, myth, falsehoods and garbled English.
The drafts are certainly not SOCIO-ECONOMIC impact ASSESSMENTS of any sort. To make matters worse, the hake long line and hake trawl drafts are identical duplicate copies. Apparently both fisheries are capital intensive and untransformed despite the hake long line fishery being 90% black owned and considered a non-capital intensive Cluster B fishery. The hake trawl fishery is capital intensive and 66% black owned.
Let's look at the texts for hake trawl and hake long line SEIAS.
Firstly, despite being fundamentally different fisheries on every measurable social and economic indicator, the draft SEIAS for both these fisheries are identical, including the numerous typos and garbled language.
Secondly, the template used for these SEIAS are socio-economic impact assessments in title only. There is not a single social or economic dataset, analysis or measurable in 17 pages of identical text. That is because the department has embarked upon this FRAP as it had done in 2013 and 2016 - without any actual and proven data. And this is despite the fact that -
- the 2005 policies mandated regular performance assessments of the fisheries at intervals of between 3 and 5 years to ensure policy and management relevance. Only one of these assessments were ever undertaken - in 2009. But this assessment and its findings are not even referenced by these SEIAS.
- the annual permit conditions all make mention of the fact that the department will request socio-economic data from right holders. In 15 years, the department has failed to collate even a single year's data for ANY fishery!
An economic and social study of the impact of fishing rights ought at the very minimum to analyse the following types of data:
- The policy objectives set in 2005: To what extent have these objectives been met, surpassed or not met at all and what are the reasons for this?
- Understanding regional and local impacts where hake is fished, landed and processed. What are the economic contributions and impacts on regional and local economies as a result of primary, secondary and tertiary impacts, including the value of services procured from local suppliers (catering, vessel maintenance and repair, laundry, retail, etc);
- Value of investments per ton in vessels, factories, taxes, jobs;
- Value of products, beneficiation, exports & domestic sales;
- Value of foreign income generation per ton allocated;
- Transformation and empowerment, particularly with respect to black ownership; value of profits returned to black shareholders (per ton allocated), skills development and staff empowerment and CSI.
- that there are "many transgressions" committed by right holders. On what conceivable evidence is this statement of "fact" based?
- that the hake long line fishery is capital intensive. That will be news to right holders! Why is it classified as a Cluster B fishery then?
- that both the hake trawl and long line fisheries require empowerment because "black groups" have been excluded! The hake long line fishery is 90% black owned, having been established in the 1990's (post apartheid fyi). The hake trawl fishery is certified (through the Genesis Audit) as being 66% black controlled; double the levels of 2005;
- the hake biomass is "fluctuating". It is not;
- that a declining TAC would cause bankruptcies. It is unclear how this has been measured. Furthermore, the only reason the hake TAC has been reduced is because the department has failed to undertake the annual research surveys. In other words, if a TAC reduction does cause a single bankruptcy, the department's incompetence and ineptitude would be the cause. (Actually an easy fix);
- that hake fishing rights are "sub-optimally utilised" because of a "lack of interest";
- that the monitoring and measuring of "transformation" due to "fronting" and the "corporate veil" is difficult. This is false on a multiplicity of levels. For one, transformation is easily measurable and has been done so since rights were first allocated. The deep sea trawl fishery had its black ownership recently measured and audited. This data has been available to the department. Further, transformation is strictly regulated under the Marine Living Resources Act. And the reference to the "corporate veil" ... is precious! Shame, the poor authors are not aware that the "corporate veil" has nothing to do with shielding the identities of the owners of an entity. It is just tragic.
- that "most" right holders are not involved in any aspect of the business of fishing and are paper quotas! MOST right holders in the hake fisheries are paper quotas according to the department!! On what conceivable factual basis is this egregious statement based?
- that the "wellbeing is taken by non-South African companies who lure the right holders to sign long term catching... agreements"! WOW! Who came up with this xenophobic, mythical crap? And then decided to publish it?
- the entire tabular "analysis" under points 1.3 and 1.5 is devoid of fact and relevance. For example, right holder trade in by-catches cause financial flows "outside the country" prejudicing "bona fide South Africans"! Who wrote this garbage? What is a bona fide SA? What is a non-bona fide SA? WOW... again.
This fishing rights allocation process is still-borne at best. If the minister insists on proceeding based on this garbage, every decision will be reviewed and set aside ... just like we have in the hake inshore trawl and horse mackerel sectors [and neither of these 2016 rights allocations have still been finalised more than 5 years later].