On 15 March 2021, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries published two sets of FRAP-related tenders. One was for the appointment of an IT firm that has to provide an IT solution for the FRAP and the second concerned the appointment of a FRAP "Implementer" that would be responsible for essentially everything from consultations, the conducting of the 12 SEIAS, development of policies and administering the entire FRAP.
Regardless of the suitability of the TOR's, the question that we have been asked to answer is, can this "start" of the process result in an allocation by year-end. The short answer is a definitive NO!
Here is why.
Firstly, we have had this stillborn issuing of tenders already - back in November 2020. Five months later, we are back to square 1. But let us pretend to be awfully gullible and pretend that come the end of April 2021, the Department appoints two service providers as envisaged and these teams get cracking immediately. (It must be noted that the legal team has not been appointed yet and the November 2020 tender seeking to appoint this team has been cancelled).
And let us focus exclusively on the FRAP implementer to keep things relatively simple.
The first substantive task is to START on the 12 fishery specific socio-economic impact assessments. You cant start drafting policies without first understanding the social and economic contexts of each of the fisheries and the communities that depend on them. Let's assume this team deploys a massive contingent of sociologists and economists across the 52 major coastal villages, towns and cities to scientifically analyse the impacts of the 12 fisheries. Let's assume they do this in a rapid 90 days with a further 30 days to produce their analytical reports. That takes us to the end of August 2021. These studies then need to be gazetted for public comment and input. A minimum of 30 days would be required by law for such a consultation process. We are now at the end of September 2021.
This analysis will directly inform the development of the fishery sector policies. Let us assume that while the SEIAS were being conducted and prepared, the individual sector and fisheries managers were crafting framework policies and then interpreted and inserted the applicable data into the draft policies within a miraculous 30 days. Let us also assume that staffers were also compiling complementary draft application forms together with the IT firm appointed to oversee the technical aspects of the FRAP. We are now at the end of October 2021.
The draft policies and forms must be gazetted for a minimum of 30 days for public consultation. A more realistic timeframe for consultation would be 60 days given that these drafts would have to be "workshopped" amongst members of the fishing industry and potential new entrant applicants. And December cant be counted for consultation given the holidays and the importance of fishing during that period. That consultative process takes us to the end of January 2022.
Let us assume that the FRAP staff work tirelessly through January and finalise all 12 sector policies, applications forms, application fees and the general policy. A final set of gazettes can then be expected on 1 February 2022, together with the invitation to apply for fishing rights.
The application period could not conceivably be less than 90 days, which takes us to the end of April 2022.
At the very earliest, the first application could be evaluated and scored in April 2022 ... and that is clearly on an extremely wishful timetable. The first fishing rights may only be allocated in June 2022, but I would not bet a rand on that happening.
If I was a betting man, I would predict that -
1. The Minister and her department will produce a farcical and irregular single SEIAS in a panic by June 2021, which will be immediately challenged, halting the entire preparatory process.
2. Should they ever overcome their inability to produce 12 complex SEAIS analysing the social and economic impacts of 12 very different commercial and small-scale fishing sectors operating in some 52 tiny, medium-sized and metropolitan communities, they will certainly falter at the next hurdle - the production of poorly composed, near-generic fishing sector policies. We have seen the penchant to produce generic, valueless sector policies in 2013 and 2016.
3. Sometime in 2023/2024, after repeated court losses, the Minister will give up and as we have seen with abalone and "interim relief", simply just issue annual exemptions - a reversion to the failures of the late 1990's.
(Disclaimer: I have deliberately overlooked the Minister's ongoing failure to resolve the outstanding appeals in the hake inshore trawl and horse mackerel fishing sectors ... more than 4 years since fishing rights were first allocated and subsequent to more than seven successive court losses in only two fishing sectors!)