Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Minister of Fisheries Allows Illegal Fishing in MPA's

Feike and AfriOceans are in possession of a series of emails between staff at the Fisheries Branch confirming that a request by an unknown person or group came via the Fisheries "Ministry" in December 2011 seeking permission to use gillnets for fishing in Zone B of the Langebaan Marine Protected Area (MPA) until 31 January 2012. Zone B of the MPA is closed to fishing except to a limited number treknetters who hold long term fishing rights.

The emails confirm that there was no consultation by the Fisheries Branch on the decision to permit fishing in the MPA. Critically of course, the Fisheries Branch and its Minister does not have any legal jurisdiction over MPA management as this authority vests with the Department of Environmental Affairs.

It would clearly appear that the rule of law, legality and responsible fisheries practices are simply of no interest to the Fisheries Branch and its increasingly woeful, absent and irresponsible Minister.

The Minister and her department's illegal decision is clearly not supported by the scientific component of the Fisheries Branch based on the emails we have.

This is the view of an official in the Department which was provided anonymously to AfriOceans:
"The Department has just given gillnet users in Langebaan permission to fish within the closed area of the MPA without consultation or research.
DAFF (for the second time) has provided the Langebaan gillnet fishers with permission to fish in the restricted area of the national park (MPA) over the festive season. The rationale is that effort levels are too high over Christmas so the fishers need somewhere else to fish. The irony is that DAFF is partly responsible for that increase in effort by issuing interim-relief gillnet permits in Langebaan. One of the main purposes of the restricted area is to control fishing effort in Langebaan Lagoon which was the result of extensive consultation with fishers to accommodate as many as possible during the (2005) rights allocation process. Whatever the perspective, allowing gillnetters access to the restricted zone of a protected area is an extremely irresponsible management practice and opens the gap for fisher access to Dwesa-Cwebe, Tsitsikamma and other “contested” MPAs.
Here is an excellent example of an MPA with design elements specifically for fisheries management objectives, and yet the fisheries management authority is itself taking actions which negate those fisheries management objectives. This MPA is a nursery ground and only protection for smoothhound sharks that are heavily fished by commercial shark fisheries. Sharks usually pup within the MPA during November."

Feike has previously stated that the greatest threat to inshore fisheries management in South Africa remains our absent and uninformed Fisheries Minister. This is just another example.

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