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Archive for March, 2010

On 10 March 2010 in an attempt to justify the preposterous proposed increases to commercial and recreational fish levies, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, stated that –
there would be no effect on the competitiveness of the commercial sector, as fees were in line with inflation and were lower than fees in neighbouring countries.”
Unfortunately the journalist that reported this statement did not interrogate it any further. Firstly the proposed increases are not in line with inflation unless inflation in South Africa is running between 70% and 500%. Secondly, the Minister’s advisers clearly do not understand how “competitiveness” works. By increasing a regulatory fee by 70% (for hake for example) will result in right holders, processors and marketers increasing their fees to cover this massive cost input. The Minister for example clearly does not appreciate that for example, South African hake in Europe has to compete with fish that can be bought for less than 3 Euro, which is about what it costs to ship a kilogram of South African hake to the EU. Minister, your proposed ill-informed and research devoid proposals will annihilate competitiveness in this extremely globally competitive environment. The result will of course lead to job losses in the fishing sector.

Thirdly, our levies do not compare with any “neighbouring country” – in any case the only “neighbouring country” that charges levies for fish landed is Namibia as Mozambique does not charge levies as we do and neither do they have sufficiently comparable commercial fish. So lets see what Namibia charges for comparable fish on a “per ton” basis (compared with our Minister’s proposals) – not to mention that Namibian fish exports to the EU enjoy a further 15% saving in terms of the Cotonou Agreement:
Hake: N$:330 (R350)
Pilchard: N$62.5 (R58)
West coast lobster: N$312 (R4679)
Squid: N$2.5 (R427)
Sole: (N$62.5) (R345)
Kingklip: (N$62.5) (R345)
Horse Mackerel: (N$25) (R19)
Monkfish: (N$62.5) (R230)
Tuna (pole method): (N$62.5) (R142)

What of course is of interest is where does the Minister get her information from?
On 8 March 2010 MCM officially announced that it has suspended (on full pay) three (senior) officials apparently caught stealing Norwegian taxpayers’ donor funds that were made available for fisheries management related projects in terms of the Norway-South Africa (NORSA) bilateral agreement.
The brief MCM press statement does not state who the officials are or what positions they hold or whether any of the NORSA funds were recovered or are considered recoverable. The statement does confirm that the alleged civil servant thieves simply transferred the funds from the MLRF into a private account apparently in the name of one of the alleged thieves.
MCM has confirmed that an internal disciplinary process is underway and the matter has been handed to the SAPS for criminal investigation. Unfortunately, MCM’s recent track record of dealing with corrupt staff may mean that this matter will simply get brushed under the carpet. If we recall, about two years ago it was alleged that certain personnel on board the patrol vessels were warning poachers of the vessels’ locations. After the public statement that an investigation would commence, there has been a deafening silence on the outcome of the investigation. Similarly, after it was exposed that a certain MCM staff member was soliciting members of the boat based whale watching industry for bribes in return for permits and he was caught on tape soliciting a bribe, the matter has simply faded away without any sanctions against the corrupt staff member. More recently in July 2009, Pam Yako, the former DG of environmental affairs, was suspended on full pay for allegedly siphoning off a mere R500 million in tax payers’ hard earned money. Whatever happened to her matter? Feike understands that she was relieved of her DG duties after being handed a wonderful “golden handshake”.
Perhaps that is why civil servants simply do not bother creating elaborate schemes to attempt to hide their theft of public funds. Afterall, what could be better than stealing the money; not being made to give it back; being suspended on full-pay for at least 12 months while you earn a second salary (on which you most certainly do not pay the mandatory 50% tax) and then getting a golden handshake so you can leave through the back door. If that is not an incentive to go on a wild public fund pilfering orgy, then you should be fired from the civil service for incapacity!

DAFF takes charge of Fisheries

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) published its 2010/2011 strategic plan which includes budgetary and delivery commitments until 2015 in the past week. “Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management” is listed as Programme 7. The strategic plan has clearly been compiled by a department and officials who until very recently were not sure as to who would be in charge of fisheries – DAFF or the department of environmental affairs. It would therefore be unfair to have expected a comprehensive and watertight plan with substantial detail about delivery of the identified objectives. However, now that we have confirmation that DAFF will take charge of fisheries from 1 April 2010 (and there is speculation that DAFF will also take charge of all marine protected areas and the Integrated Coastal Management Act on 1 April), the strategic plan would require revisiting in a number of important areas.
We identify some of these areas below. The strategic plan can be accessed on www.daff.gov.za
1. Increasing Black empowerment in the fisheries sector is identified as one of the key objectives. Although most of the inshore fisheries are significantly black empowered, there are a number of sectors where broad based black economic empowerment has been lagging for an array of reasons. For example in the squid fishery, black empowerment has been significantly lower than the industry average. DAFF’s strategic plan needs to focus on the next round of fishing rights allocations in 2013 in the squid, line fish, KZN prawn trawl, beach seine and demersal shark sectors. Previous experience shows that you need to start preparing for a rights allocation process about three years prior to the expiry date of the rights in question.
2. Development of a shellfish sanitation programme. It is noted that the development of such a programme is listed as a baseline target despite the fact that a shellfish sanitation programme was developed in collaboration with (the old) SABS. Perhaps the 2004 programme requires revision.
3. Relations with RFMO’s and LME’s. The strategic plan does not yet mention what DAFF’s views are with respect to the role it intends playing at key RFMO’s such as ICCAT, CCSBT, SWIOFP, CCAMLR etc. In addition clarity is also desperately sought with respect to South Africa’s commitments to the Benguela Current Commission and the Aghulhas-Somali Current LME.
4. Tuna long line fishery and the Octopus fishery. Both fisheries are in urgent need of regulatory intervention, guidance and assistance. The tuna and swordfish long line fisheries are being suffocated by economically unrealistic policies and a lack of political commitment to lobby for larger tuna allocations to South Africa. The experimental octopus fishery too has effectively been terminated because of a lack economic understanding and flexibility on the part of MCM.
5. DAFF’s objectives to increase access to the commercial fisheries and to increase black empowerment can be supported by focussing energies toward new fisheries research and development.
6. A review of the Marine Living Resource Fund’s funding model is also urgently required. For a starter, the draft gazette on levies published in February by the department of environmental affairs requires urgent review. DAFF would do well by shelving that gazette and commence with an honest and comprehensive consultation process on what would be a sustainable funding model for commercial, recreational and small-scale/artisinal fisheries in South Africa. If members of the industry recall, MCM had spent a couple of million rand in 2006/2007 on consultants who drafted a “new levies policy” after having travelled to, inter alia, Australia on some “study tour”. So there is a multi-million rand policy document on levies on a shelf somewhere in MCM.