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Archive for December, 2009

Environmental Affairs Releases Review of ISS Paper

The Environmental Affairs department has finally released its peer review report on a paper drafted by Feike and commissioned by the ISS on illegal fishing in South Africa. The review was undertaken by Dave Japp. It does not appear to have been reviewed by any other expert. The full review is available at www.deat.gov.za.
Feike welcomes the review as the initial paper was intended to commence a debate on our collective understanding of illegal fishing in South Africa and what it costs our economy. The review unfortunately does not attempt to provide an alternative understanding of illegal fishing or what is costs South Africa. The report does however nitpick through stated facts and figures criticising them as more “popular” than “scientific”. I readily admit – and had Japp and environmental affairs attended the public debate and review organised in Cape Town to critique the paper they would have heard it then – that any attempt to understand illegal fishing particularly in sectors such as abalone and shark finning, there is no magical scientific formula to determine its ecological and socio-economic impacts. Poachers do not report their takings and earnings on a trade website. You can not contact them and scientifically analyse their data at 0860 POACHERS.
The review furthermore is simply a desk-top review of the paper and subsequent print media generated as a result. It would have been helpful had the review actually attempted to provide an alternative methodology to contextualising illegal fishing. One cannot sit at a desk and criticise the ISS/Feike report’s estimates of illegal abalone, pilchard or hake fishing if the reviewer does not interview poachers, gangsters, buyers of abalone in Hong Kong or fishery control officers. The reviewer did not consult international organisations such as TRAFFIC or NGO’s who deal with illegal fishing on a daily basis, such as SEAWATCH. The ISS/Feike report actually involved interviews with gangsters and poachers who use poached abalone to buy ephedrine for TIK manufacture. I personally sat with poachers who leisurely sat on the slipway in Hawston offloading more than 1 ton of illegal abalone and lobsters. And you don’t footnote and reference the drug-dealers or the poachers name and contact details. Unfortunately Mr Japp forgets that the ISS/Feike report is not intended for some academic scientific journal replete with complex mathematical formulae etc. The report details realities based an actual interviews with hardened criminals and members of some of Cape Town’s most violent gangs.
With respect to my research into illegal fishing of hake, the practices and volumes detailed in my paper were in fact confirmed by the South African Deep Sea Trawl Industry Association (SADSTIA) who were part of the initial consultation and review processes. In fact my research into the Spanish practices were recognised by MCM, who under the leadership of Theressa Frantz and SADSTIA, subsequently began a process of taking corrective measures.
Furthermore, while the DEAT review seeks to undermine the numbers and values presented in the ISS/Feike report, the quantum and value of illegal fishing quoted in the report are supported by every other institution, including Rhodes University (who undertook a separate research report into illegal abalone fishing, confirming that the ISS/Feike report may have been too conservative in stating the quantum of illegal abalone fishing), TRAFFIC who monitors the illegal trade in species on an annual basis, the quantum of abalone sold in China and Hong Kong and the numerous and various information sources which exist on the “ground”.
Finally, the review paper is fatally undermined by the very admissions and actions by the most senior staff at DEAT and MCM. The Director-General is remembered as having broken down in tears in Parliament and on national television and admitted that neither DEAT nor MCM are able to control poaching, that it is out of control and they do not have any idea how to arrest the deteriorating situation.
In summary, the DEAT review fails to provide an alternative methodology or answers to how one can determine the quantum and value of illegal fishing in South Africa. The DEAT review does not show that the ISS/Feike report is flawed in its methodology or that incorrect information or data was used. The DEAT review does however ask an extraordinary number of questions indicating that it may have useful if the reviewer actually contacted experts such as TRAFFIC, SEAWATCH, Rhodes University, a handful of buyers of illegal abalone, fishery control officers employed by MCM, enforcement officers employed by SANParks (Table Mountain National Park and Bird Island MPA’s), abalone right holders and divers, industry bodies such as SADSTIA and so forth. Had the reviewer really been serious, then he could have even contacted the author of the ISS/Feike report and a meeting with certain poachers and TIK dealers could have been arranged.
Feike looks forward to convening a further public debate on the ISS/Feike report and the DEAT review. We firmly believe that only open debate and discussion will allow us to share information and experiences with the hope that we will be able regain the upper hand over illegal fishing in South Africa.

MCM Continues to Deceive

On 4 December MCM issued a statement denying the veracity of a story published in the Cape Times earlier that day (see article below dated 5 December, “MCM Issues Statement on Abalone Divers’ Funds”). Documents in the possession of Feike in fact show that the statement by MCM is false.

The document confirms that MCM’s statement is false and deceptive in three respects. Firstly, abalone divers were to have received R54 000 (not R52 000 as we initially reported) or R90/kg. There were never discussions about a once-off R20 000 payment.
Secondly, there was no signed agreement between MCM and a trust representing the abalone divers in June 2009. The documents in our possession show that a draft trust deed existed in October only with the intention of getting the divers to sign the trust deed on 6 October. MCM is encouraged to make the June 2009 signed agreement available to the public. Indeed, our discussions with divers and TURF representatives confirmed that limited consultations between MCM and the industry only started in late September and early October – weeks before Jacob Zuma’s address to the divers in Hawston on 17 October.
Thirdly, R82 million was made available to MCM for the purposes of “social relief” payments to divers (R15 million) and for developmental abalone projects, such as the establishment of an abalone hatchery in the Overberg.
The fact that MCM has actively sought to provide false information regarding public funds raises further concerns about possible maladministration and the diversion of public funds to unlawfully appointed consultants.

MK Vets to Combat Poaching? Oh No!

Just when we saw some light in the tunnel, we now learn that the South African government will be using unarmed uMkhonto we Sizwe veterans to police our coast in a bid to stamp out abalone poaching! To make matters even worse they are being trained by metrorail – the same organisation that runs our railways and cant keep passengers from being thrown off trains. Oh no, is this just a surreal really bad dream? Please let it be!

Many respected voices in the field have simply and sadly confirmed that this just amounts to another case of ANC cadre deployment using public funds. With the deployment of ANC cadres to fight poaching (remembering that just before the national elections in April, a senior ANC official was caught with poached abalone in his official ANC vehicle emblazoned with ANC logos and a picture of the current president), government has unequivocally confirmed that it has no interest in curbing poaching. It will cost the taxpayer and the abalone industry many millions to fund this ANC cadre deployment and will undoubtedly yield as much of a result as did the initial commercial harvesting ban.
The regularity with which government administration continues to ignore academic and industry advice, expert advice, best practice and the expensive mistakes of days past is further evidence that we have almost completely corrupted the civil service with blind political loyalty.
Instead of unarmed, metrorail trained MK Veterans what we need to spend public and industry funds on the infiltration and collapse of organised triad structures and the disruption in the trade of abalone which funds everything from tik production to the counterfeit goods like DVD’s, clothes and cigarettes. We also need dedicated environmental courts with properly trained “green” magistrates and prosecutors. We also need to ensure that our current fishery control officers are actually fully conversant with our marine fisheries laws and can properly support the detection and prosecution services attain successful prosecutions coupled with lengthy jail terms for the gang bosses.
We do not need MK Veterans wondering the coast hoping to bump into a triad boss poaching tons of abalone. The MK Veterans could instead wonder the coast and make sure recreational fishers have their permits and are catching their 4 lobsters per day – that’s if metrorail is training them to also identify the difference between a geelbek and an abalone.

Commercial Abalone Fishery to be Reopened

It is finally official. The abalone fishery will be reopened to commercial fishing in February 2010. This was announced on 6 December 2009 by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who will also assume the position of minister in charge of fisheries.
The Minister – Tina-Joemat Petterson – did not however announce what the TAC would be as she is still in the process of consulting officials at MCM. We hope that she will consult extensively with divers and academics at UCT who have undertaken substantial research into the status of the fishery, including the predominance of urchins in the Hangklip region. MCM officials will be able to tell her very little unfortunately as they have not undertaken any substantial ecological, social or economic research since at least 2007. In addition, it was MCM’s management team that forced through the closure of fishery despite independent scientific advice which showed that the commercial fishery had little impact on the sustainability of the abalone fishery.
The Minister importantly mentioned that poaching remains the single biggest problem to the future of the abalone sector. She made brief mention of MCM co-opting former ANC and PAC military veterans as officers to combat poaching. It is unclear what role they will precisely play but it is understood that they may form part of a marine compliance unit of sorts.
The Minister will be under significant pressure over the next few weeks to detail her strategy to recover the upper hand over poaching and to save MCM from institutional collapse.

MCM Issues Statement on Abalone Divers’ Funds

On 4 December 2009, Marine and Coastal Management issued a statement in response to a newspaper article published by the Cape Times of the same date. The MCM statement reads as follows:
The Marine and Coastal Management would like to respond to misrepresentations in a Cape Times article, Friday, 04 December 2009, by Melanie Gosling titled: “Fishermen short-changed on promised compensation.” Firstly, it is absolutely not true that MCM has “handed R15 million of government relief funds to a shadowy “trust” to distribute the money as compensation to abalone quota holders…” as the Cape Times claim. The Department of Environmental Affairs has paid out R6.8 million in interim relief to 292 of the 302 rights holders (262 individual divers and 40 legal entities in the form of close corporations) whose livelihoods were adversely affected by the suspension of the wild abalone fishery. What she refers to as a “shadowy trust,” is in fact a trust established by the affected permit holders to interact with the Department in the disbursement of the interim relief funds in line with Public Finance Management principles. Secondly, contrary to her claim, fishermen were never meant to receive R52 000 instead of R20 000 that the Department paid out. An agreement signed on the 18th of June 2009, between the South African Abalone Rights Holders Trust and the Department, in terms of relief payment, states that:
1. All 262 abalone divers will be paid a once-off amount of R20 000 each
2. All 40 legal entities (CCs) will be paid a once-off amount of R30 000 each
3. All crew (“bakkie boys”) totaling 604 will be paid a once – off payment of R2000 per person
4. Consideration of an exclusive second payment to the maximum of R10 000 to the divers and crew will be part of a detailed means test thought the Implementing Agent. Gosling further claims that the R52 000 she made up, is “apparently part of R80m given by the Treasury as a “social plan” to help fishing communities affected by the closure of the abalone fishery. National Treasury has never given the Department R80m for a “social plan.”
Although the statement seeks to address the status of the “trust” created which does not have the support of all abalone divers, MCM continues to deceive. Importantly, MCM still refuses to make available the trust deed that established the trust and defines the beneficiaries and who the trustees are and what are their powers and obligations. MCM also fails to address the important allegations surrounding the increasingly apparent unlawful appointment of Anix Consulting. Anix has admitted that it was “given” the contract. The fact that MCM failed to use the press statement to dispel the allegations of corruption, must mean that someone at MCM did indeed “give” Anix Consulting the contract in return for something – that is afterall the how and the why government contracts are “given” and not competed for as required by our state-of-the-art but never implemented anti-graft laws. So the question is who gave the contract and why does MCM top-management continue to duck and dive the issue – are they involved in the given contract as well?
As stated in an earlier article, Feike has attempted to report this matter to the Special Investigations Unit. However, the SIU’s “fraud hotline” never gets picked up – at least on the 15 occasions we tried last Friday. We also tried the “President’s complaints hotline” – they should establish a complaints hotline for the complaints hotline! We will however continue to try and lodge our complaint and concerns with the SIU.
In the Cape Times of 4 December 2009 (p3 – “Fishermen short-changed on promised compensation”), journalist Melanie Gosling writes that MCM continues to refuse to account to the public how R80 million allocated by the National Treasury allegedly aimed as “social relief” for the commercial abalone industry is being spent. Gosling also approached Anix Consulting – the consulting firm Feike identified as having mysteriously surfaced at about the same time the divers had their promised payouts reduced from approximately R100 000 to R20 000. Anix Consulting confirms that they were “given a contract with Water and Environmental Affairs”. If they were given a contract then they were appointed illegally and heads need to roll at MCM. In addition, Feike intends approaching the Special Investigations Unit regarding the increasingly apparent misappropriation of public funds.
The fact that MCM refuses to answer simple yet important questions about the role played by Anix Consulting, their terms of appointment and what they are being paid and also refuses to account for R80 million in public funds must raise clear concerns about the possibility of corruption, maladministration and mismanagement.