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Archive for August, 2010

MCM Remains Rudderless

More than 7 months since President Zuma signed the proclamation appointing the Minister of Fisheries in charge of marine and coastal management, the branch continues to be – as one ANC member of Parliament put it – led by actors! The head of the organisation is an acting deputy-director general (the third actor since January). Neither does MCM have a chief director of the critical post of fisheries management nor a chief financial officer. Their are dozens of director posts in research and fisheries management that continue to remain vacant.
The lack of professional fisheries managers, fisheries economists and fisheries researchers is having an obviously profound adverse impact on fisheries management.
Firstly, we still have no idea what the Minister’s intentions are with regard the management of our commercial fisheries, the restructuring of marine and coastal management and the expansion of marine and freshwater fish farming except for some very vague and ambiguous statements in her last budget speech (but nothing substantive since).
Secondly, there is the shattering silence on a range of critical domestic fisheries management issues such as the near complete collapse of the hake long line industry, high levels of unregulated and unmanaged fishing in the lobster sector, even higher levels of poaching in the abalone fishery and general chaos in the small scale commercial fisheries which has allowed for a number of questionable opportunists with known poaching backgrounds to take advantage and secure areas of influence. For example, the number of convicted poachers or those known to be engaging in illegal fishing that attended the Minister’s budget vote dinner in April this year was alarming. And of course nothing be said of the fact that in a matter of less than 36 months commercial fishing rights need to be allocated in the squid, line fish, KZN prawn trawl, large pelagic, shark demersal, beach seine and a number of other fisheries.
Thirdly, as is the case with domestic fisheries management, DAFF is confusingly silent when it comes to international and regional fisheries management. For example, DAFF has no policy position on the upcoming Benguela Current Commission Ministerial meeting on 2 September 2010 and appears to have deflected its role in this critical regional fisheries management toward the environmental department. The same applies when it comes to fisheries management at CCSBT, ICCAT, COFI, IOTC, ASCLME, the Abidjan Convention, SEAFO etc.
So besides allocating the odd fishing permit and unhelpfully pronouncing on the performance review process, it remains a mystery as to what precisely we can expect from the “new” fisheries branch some 16 months after the establishment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Perhaps we can expect a functioning fisheries website soon?

Second BCC Ministerial Conference

The second Ministerial Conference of the Benguela Current Commission (BCC) is scheduled to take place in Cape Town on 2 September 2010. While the Minister’s of Fisheries from Namibia and Angola will attend as representatives of their respective countries, it is unclear who will represent South Africa. It could either be the Minister of Fisheries or the Minister of Environmental Affairs.
The first Ministerial Conference took place two years ago and addressed a number of critical institutional arrangements affecting the management and administration of the BCC. The second Ministerial Conference will no doubt have to address the fundamental issue of adopting a final agreement establishing the BCC as the current BCC was established in terms of an interim agreement. A final agreement is required in order to secure long term and sustainable funding for the various regional marine ecosystem projects and for administration and operational costs.
The second Ministerial Conference will also be attended by fisheries ministers who have never previously participated in the BCC and they may wish to stamp their respective marks on the objectives of the BCC and the projects undertaken over the next two years at least. For example, the various funded BCC projects have a complete bias toward research and marine science with no emphasis on fisheries management or understanding the socio-economic relevance of fisheries and marine aquaculture in developing countries. If the BCC is to remain remotely relevant to the economies of Angola, Namibia and South Africa, this skewed bias toward research and science will have to be corrected.

BBWW and WSCD Diving Appeals

On 18 August 2010, the Department of Environmental Affairs issued a letter to appellants and stakeholders in the boat-based whale watching (BBWW) and white shark cage diving (WSCD) sectors confirming that a “large number of appeals” have been received and the department is unable to provide any indication as to how long the appeals process will take.
This is hardly surprising. Firstly, in terms of an appeals process the Minister and her department do not have any legal framework in which to consider, evaluate and decide the appeals. If we recall, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and her department do not have the legal authority in the first place to actually evaluate applications in these sectors (but they insisted on doing so). In defending their perceived authority, the DEA conceded that it does not have any authority to act under GN Regulation 1111 of September 1998 (the fisheries regulations). Regulation 5 of the fisheries regulations stipulates the procedures to be followed and implemented when dealing with appeals in terms of decisions taken under the Marine Living Resources Act. Feike has repeatedly argued that the DEA’s contention that it has the authority to act under provisions of the MLRA is deeply flawed and this is just one practical example of this flawed logic.
Secondly, the appeals have undoubtedly forced the Minister into a very uncomfortable corner as her legal advisers would no doubt have advised. Notwithstanding that she does not have the actual legal authority to regulate the BBWW and WSCD sectors, the “non-decisions” (or provisional decisions) taken by the chief director of DEA are deeply flawed for a number of reasons, which have been outlined in earlier articles on this blog. Principal among these is the “false hope” created by “provisionally” allocating permits to a number of new entrant applicants who – based on their own applications – employed no one, have no financial history or track record and simply expressed broad intentions and hopes with regard to conducting a successful BBWW or WSCD operation. The provisional decisions to exclude a number of exemption holders in the WSCD sector for example appear to be so deeply flawed based on fact and law that should the DEA persist in excluding these operators that are employers, have invested multiples of millions in vessels, infrastructure, websites, domestic and international marketing relations etc, litigation will be the inevitable consequence.
For these reasons, the Minister may want the status quo of allowing exemption holders to operate to continue for as long as possible while she undoubtedly “applies her mind” to the appeals before her. We are of the opinion that the appeals process may take a further 6 to 9 months before decisions can be expected from the Minister.

1.6 tons of Abalone Confiscated

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) reported that it had successfully issued detention orders on two cargo ships that were headed to Hong Kong. One of the ships was found with cargo of 1.6 tons of abalone on board which is assumed to have been harvested illegally. The second ship’s arrival in Cape Town is expected in the next week.
The action by SARS is to be highly commended as it indicates the use of intelligence and information networks which are essential to reducing the scourge of poaching. The costs that will be incurred by the poaching syndicate will be substantial if one considers the lost costs of freighting, processing and up-front payments to runners and poachers. However, the individual or entity that exported the product must be publicly named and prosecuted. Further, the damages suffered by the shipping companies concerned and its clients who would also have been shipping products to Hong Kong should also be claimed from the exporter of the illegal abalone.
Of side interest is the fact that SARS has valued the abalone at R2500/kg. It is noted that the SARS statement referred to the confiscation of some 28000 units of abalone, which means that the poached abalone must have been frozen and not processed into the more valuable dried form. This makes the valuation of R2500/kg extremely high.
However, if this is the official valuation now being used by the South African government, the loss of approximately 3500 tons of abalone to poaching in 2009 then equates to R8,7 billion.
The Marine Ecosystems and Management newsletter (Aug 2010) reported that in July, US President Obama, signed an executive order establishing a national ocean policy for the US which is the country’s first comprehensive, integrated policy for stewardship of its oceans and coasts. The policy launches a process of coastal and marine spatial planning for the nation, and coordinates the various ocean-related activities of more than 20 federal agencies under a new and centralized National Ocean Council. The President’s action reflects the recommendations of a federal task force that explored ways to promote long-term conservation and use of ocean resources.
It is therefore noteworthy that in South Africa we have been doing the very opposite and will be (mis) managing our marine and coastal resources in a disintegrated and ad hoc fashion and contrary to all professional and scientific advice provided to government! South Africa’s ill-advised mismanagement strategy of our oceans and coast will of course have serious and adverse socio-economic consequences for the sustainability and well-being of coastal communities in the long-term. We wonder who will be blamed and made the scapegoat by government then?

Abalone Quota Holders fish entire quota in a morning

Many abalone quota holders east of Cape Hangklip have caught their entire annual quota in a single morning usually between about 8am and 11am. One processor in the area confirmed that of the quotas it has arrangements with for processing about 50% or 20 tons have been harvested over a period of about 9 fishing days.
Although clearly happy with their legal quotas, many quota holders have expressed concerns that the department of fisheries has yet to develop a compliance and management strategy for the fishery more than 30 days into the harvesting season. For example, fishery compliance officers are still unsure how to deal with quota holders that land slightly more than their allocated quotas as quota holders cannot carry a scale on their vessels. Quota holders have prudently suggested that the normal tolerances should be allowed for (about 10% of the legal catch limit), alternatively, that over-catches be allocated to fellow quota holders and deducted from their permits. Further, catch allocations across the TURF’s appear haphazard and do not comply with the abalone fishery policy of 2003 and also the inter-area schedule that was reluctantly made available by the Department and after the abalone industry association threatened legal action.
Of greater concern is the fact that when the fishery was opened back in June 2010, the Minister of Fisheries stated that the commercial fishery was opened subject to “conditions” by Cabinet. To date, these conditions have not been made public and neither has a management plan been discussed with right holders to curb poaching and increase research and management budgets for the fishery.
Many right holders have commented that they found it strange how they were able to fish their entire quota in 3 hours even in areas where the Department has admitted poaching is rifest. Perhaps it is time that the Department of Fisheries employs an independent research team of biologists, quota holders, NGO representatives and quota TURF representatives to undertake annual research surveys into the ecology of the stock.
It has been estimated that by the time the legal quota of 150 tons is harvested (probably by month-end), approximately R52 million would been earned by right holders directly and re-invested in the coastal communities.

Pilchards required for Processing Factory

A South African processor is seeking to purchase approximately 500 tons of pilchards on an urgent basis.

If you have 500 tons of quota available please contact Feike.

Zita Set to become DG of DAFF

Former environmental portfolio committee chair Langa Zita is set to become the next director general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. According to well-placed sources in the department, Zita’s name has been forwarded as first choice to Public Services Minister Richard Baloyi and Cabinet for approval.
Zita has a strong background in the South African Communist Party, is said to be a close ally of Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi and has been one of Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s closest advisers in the past few months.
Zita was not initially in the running for the position, after Njabulo Nduli left the department last year. But by the time a second round of interviews took place, he was closely involved in departmental decision-making and had emerged as favourite.
Not everyone is happy with Zita’s looming appointment. Factions in the department who oppose him are worried about his management skills. Other department officials said that while they were sceptical at first about his quick rise in the department, they had grown to respect his socialist background and described him as an intellectual who cares deeply about pro-poor and agricultural issues.
(Source: www.mg.co.za)
What is this commercial fishing industry performance review process supposed to be about?
Unfortunately the department of fisheries (DAFF) does not seem to understand its purpose, intent and what DAFF’s legal limitations are in this regard. DAFF’s institutional confusion on the matter cannot be surprising. Afterall, there is no longer any institutional memory left within DAFF that understands why the “performance review” clauses were included in each of the policies (and of course we will not expect anyone at DAFF to consult the Cabinet minutes of June 2004 to determine why that meeting which was chaired by then Deputy President Zuma agreed to adopt the current suite of fisheries policies). In addition, DAFF does not have a permanent senior management team to speak of (save for the much maligned scientific researchers) that are conversant with fisheries management. Yes, they all mean well, but professional fisheries managers they are not and that is what DAFF needs; not well meaning generalists who need to still “learn” about fisheries – learning takes place at junior entry-level positions not at senior management level.
So with this in mind, the recent vague statements from DAFF about a ” fishing rights review” process do require interrogation.
Firstly, there is no legal provision authorising the Minister or DAFF to review the long term fishing rights granted to right holders. The recent statements attributed to members of the ANC in a recent Financial Mail article for example about revoking fishing rights would simply amount to an illegal “quota grab”. The fishery policies are quite clear on the matter. The performance of right holders with regard to a number of socio-economic and ecological criteria need to be assessed so as to ensure that management systems remain valid. Fishing rights can only be revoked, cancelled, suspended or reduced if a right holder breaches a provision of its fishing permit or a provision of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) and the breach in question is of such a serious nature as to warrant the administrative action taken.
Fishing rights were never allocated subject to any conditions, let alone conditions related to transformation, specific performance levels and so forth (as the MLRA does not allow for conditional allocations). Similarly, the annual fishing permits are not allocated subject to any specific transformation or performance levels. Accordingly, the much threatened “quota grab” would only lead to the instability and chaos that characterised the fishing industry in the 1990’s and result in job losses, factory closures and greater loss of confidence in the fisheries economy. The Minister has afterall recognised the significant harm caused to fishing communities as a result of the ill-advised decision taken by her predecessor to close the abalone fishery. A repeat of this on a substantially larger scale cannot be allowed.
Secondly, the performance review process and the request for information (RFI) forms fail to ask the questions that the Minister and DAFF clearly want answers to. The Minister is clearly (and rightly so) concerned about employee working standards, pay, benefits, trade and value adding and broader socio-economic issues affecting the industry. And of course these concerns are sector specific. The RFI forms do not ask a single pertinent question relating to –
  • worker pay levels;
  • worker benefits such as medical aid, pensions, study allowances etc;
  • executive remuneration and bonus structures;
  • the average age of fishing vessels by sector;
  • fish factory throughput levels;
  • marketing structures and markets;
  • what prices are paid for fish from right holders;
  • fish values and product variants subsequent to processing;
  • where the maximum levels of beneficiation occur;
  • whether eco-labelling add value to fish products and how does increased values support jobs etc;
  • staff training, development and upward mobility;
  • community / local investments;
  • what regulatory and government support is required; or
  • what policy adjustments or changes are required to support economic growth in the sector.
Instead, the RFI’s request the most general and irrelevant data which is not even comparable to the data submitted in 2005 which means that DAFF will not be able to coherently measure changes that have occurred since 2005.
For example, in 2002 and again in late 2004 Marine and Coastal Management undertook two substantive studies of the industry post the medium term rights allocation process. Those studies indicated the following (for example) in the hake trawl industry:
  • In 2002, the hake trawl industry employed more than 5700 people; by 2004 this had increased to just over 8800 people;
  • In 2002, the sea and factory workers earned an annual average wage of R63000; in 2004 this had increased to R74000;
  • 60% of hake trawl products were consumed domestically and 40% exported to the Europe, USA and Australia;
  • 82% of the trawl catch was processed on land where the majority of jobs were created.
The performance measuring process is a R9 million indulgence designed by consultants and overseen by bureaucrats with little or no knowledge of the fisheries socio-economy and management needs. It will neither assist the Minister of Fisheries understand the socio-economic relevance of any fishery sector; nor will it allow DAFF to design any management strategies to support the economic value and growth of any fishery sector.

Brazillian Seafood Company Sued for Finning

The Brazilian environmental group Instituto Justiça Ambiental (IJA) this week released a report alleging that illegal commercial shark fishing is causing severe damage to Brazil’s offshore ecosystems. According to IJA, 300,000 sharks have been killed in the past year for their fins, which are clandestinely exported to Asia where shark fin soup and other shark-based dishes are a popular delicacy.
It is a crime in Brazil to separate a shark’s fin from its body. According to the group’s allegations, however, this has not stopped the Brazilian seafood company, Sigel do Brasil Comercio, from illegally exporting millions of dollars worth of shark fins to China and other Asian markets where a growing middle class has caused a surge in demand for the products.
IJA’s claims have been substantiated by the Brazilian Environment Ministry, who has stepped up pressure on Sigel and even raided their offices in May. The killing of so many predators has severely imbalanced the ecosystem off Brazil’s coast, says Cristiano Pacheco, director of IJA, “The massive and illegal fishing is doing irreversible harm to the ocean’s ecosystem, because sharks are at the top of the food chain.” In the group’s view, that impact is worth $790 million, which is the amount of a lawsuit that IJA has brought against the seafood company on Monday.
Any legal award resulting from the suit will go to Brazil’s national environment fund.
This article appeared on http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/1757 and was provided to Feike by Lesley Rochat of AfriOceans Conservation Alliance – www.aoca.org.za
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