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Archive for November, 2010

Fisheries Mired in Chaos and Controversy

We had hoped (and prayed to gods) that with the official appointment of Tina Joemat-Pettersson as Minister of Fisheries in April this year and the removal of Monde Mayekiso as head of fisheries management, the fisheries branch (formerly MCM) would undergo a dramatic recovery as was promised by the Minister.
The events of just the past month (let alone the creeping inaction and failures since April) have confirmed that the only change was the name of the branch from MCM to fisheries. Mismanagement, allegations of corruption and gross incompetence have come to define the fisheries branch. In addition, the lack of professional and knowledgeable staff at the fisheries branch has meant that it has effectively been caught sleeping on numerous occasions. Its Minister failed to play any leadership role at the Second Benguela Current Commission meeting which is all about effective regional fisheries management; instead the Minister of Environmental Affairs and her staff took the reins. Both Angola and Namibia are led by their respective fisheries ministers. Earlier, the Environmental Affairs department humiliated the fisheries branch by unilaterally deciding to de-list abalone from CITES Appendix II. DAFF did not even know about the de-listing until Feike and TRAFFIC notified it about the de-listing! Then it did nothing.
In June, when before the Parliamentary Committee on Fisheries, the Minister stated that she was not responsible for fishing quotas and had to be embarrassingly reminded by a member of staff that in fact she was! The list is ongoing. Both comical and a sad indictment on how we tolerate such mind-boggling incompetence from Ministers and their high earning yet unsuitable staff.
And now – within the space of a month – we have admissions and contradictions about how a “connected” woman who lives in a wendy house and works in a fish shop was helped by the ANC fishing desk to get a 2 ton lobster quota despite not having any of the required resources to catch the fish and we have massive allegations about widespread nepotism and possible corruption regarding the compilation of interim lobster quota lists. The Department’s admission that it in fact outsourced the allocation of these quotas to organisations such as Masifundise and Coastal Links is simply mind-boggling. The admission confirms that it acted illegally as the department has no legal authority to “out-source” the allocation of these quotas. Even more confirmation of the incompetence that surrounds us.
Some one help us in 2011.

Interim Relief Overcatch is 400%

The Department of Fisheries has conservatively estimated that the interim relief lobster quota holders harvested 285 tons or more than 400% more than the 53 tons they were allocated in 2009/2010!

To make matters even worse, instead of sanctioning or penalising the quota holders, DAFF has instead decreased the quotas to the commercial and recreational sectors (the most law abiding sectors) and rewarded the poachers with a 200 ton allocation in 2010/2011! In addition (and as is apparent from the blog article below), the interim relief quota process has been substantially corrupted and manipulated with many the recipients either involved in the commercial fisheries, employed full-time in other sectors of the economy or even deceased.
DAFF’s increase in the interim relief quotas from 53 tons to 200 tons confirms that criminal activity and poaching are rewarded.

The Farce that is Interim Relief

There have long been allegations that many of the people granted an interim relief lobster quota are not fishers but have got onto the list due to the complete mismanagement of the process by the Department of Fisheries and/or because of their connections to those responsible for compiling the list.
The allegations of cronyism and mismanagement received greater credence when the Department of Fisheries recently published for “comment” its draft interim relief list. The department confirmed that the names on the list have been verified and thus represent deserving recipients of the interim relief lobster quotas.
A cursory glance at the names on the 84 page list reveals that a number of the intended recipients are certainly not deserving or in need of interim relief. Feike has analysed the recipients of interim relief in just one small area and found that many names on the list are of people who certainly should not qualify for “interim relief”. We found names of people who are –
1. taxi owners;
2. shebeen owners;
3. permanently employed as shoreskippers;
4. fishing vessel owners; and
5. members, directors and shareholders of commercial fishing companies that have long term offshore lobster, hake long line and tuna pole commercial quotas.
There are even names of people on the list who are deceased.
These substantial anomalies in just one small area must bring into question the department’s entire so-called “verification” process. Indeed, had the department undertaken the most basic verification (such as cross-referencing the ID numbers of interim relief recipients with the ID numbers of shareholders and directors on its own right holder database – if they still use it), a number of these anomalies would have been picked up.
What is clear is that the interim relief process has imploded into a quota grab as the department of fisheries has itself imploded into chaos and an inability to manage any of the inshore fisheries whether its abalone, lobster or line fish. The Minister needs to urgently show leadership and regain control over this farcical process.

2 year ban proposed on Taiwanese Abalone

Experts in Taiwan have suggested that Taiwan’s aquatic farmers stop raising a popular type of marine mollusk to eliminate a virus that has nearly wiped out the entire industry. According to FocusTaiwan, almost all of Taiwan’s cultivated abalone (Haliotis diversicolor) have been infected with a virus that has decreased the total harvest by 90 per cent.
Taiwan’s annual production has fallen to 200 tons a year, down from 2,500 tons at its peak in 2000, he said. Many young abalone in cultivation began dying for unknown reasons nine years ago, and it was only after six years of study, that researchers found the abalone fry died from infection of two kinds of bacteria: vibrio parahaemolyticus and vibrio alginolyticus.
Not long after identifying the cause, mature abalone raised in northeastern Taiwan began to die in large numbers during the winter.The mass deaths were largely caused by being in waters colder than 22-23 degrees Celsius, in which the virus spreads quickly.
To date, no method to prevent the disease has been found.
The virus has also destroyed the abalone aquaculture industry in eastern Taiwan’s Taitung County, which once accounted for 90 per cent of the country’s abalone fry.
This story was adapted from http://internationalabalonesociety.org/

Concerns raised with 2011 Lobster TAC

The 2010/2011 total allowable catch (TAC) for the west coast rock lobster fishery indicates a 100 ton decline in the TAC from the previous season. In 2009/2010 the TAC was set at 2393 tons; in 2010/2011 the TAC has been set at 2286 tons. While the overall decline is hardly newsworthy, what is of considerable concern is the manner in which the hopelessly flawed and mismanaged interim lobster relief is being accommodated.
Firstly, the interim relief quota of 200 tons (an increase of 20 tons over the previous season) is made possible by reducing the deep-water commercial lobster and recreational quotas. The recreational quota has been reduced by limiting the daily take limits and the length of the season. This curtailment is particularly problematic as the department failed to consult with the sector as is required by law. The departmental TAC document (which Feike has) records a number of concerning comments from the department’s own senior managers. Some of these are as follows:
“I am concerned though that we do not have an idea as to what extend the season for recreational fishers should be amended to. We may also not have sufficient time to consult…”
Another senior official noted as follows:
“The report regarding the level and accuracy as well as the malpractices associated with interim relief catches is concerning and must be properly addressed.”
This latter statement is of particular interest. The report referred to has not been made public and the reference to “malpractices” and the lack of accurate information pertaining to catch data are of grave concern. Yet, the department sees fit to increase the interim relief quota without in any way first addressing the “malpractices” and the lack of reporting. DAFF has effectively taken to punishing those that comply with the law (the commercial and recreational sectors who are the most law abiding of the lobster sectors) and rewarded the most deviant.
The second concern is that by allocating the “interim relief” lobster fishers quota in deep water areas, DAFF is merely supporting the creation of paper quotas as small scale fishers simply cannot fish these deep waters with a little row boat and hoop nets.