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Archive for March, 2011

DEA Comments on Raggy Charters Chumming Incident

The PE Herald newspaper this morning reported that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has finally commented on the furore raging about Raggy Charters’ chumming for birds and/or sharks just off Hobie Beach. Lloyd Edwards of Raggy Charters admitted to the PE Herald on 29 March that he was effectively chumming just off Hobie Beach. The admission amounts to a breach of a number of laws as detailed in the blog article “PE operator caught chumming illegally: DEA Remains Silent”, below.
The DEA confirms that it is “investigating” the incident and that it does not support chumming in proximity to swimming beaches or “swimming events” but then bizarrely the DEA spokesperson, Zolile Nqayi, states that they are considering amendments to current legislation to regulate this kind of activity! Wait a minute, does DEA honestly believe that current legislation does not regulate and prohibit “such activity” unless proper permits are in place (which they were not in this case).
Is DEA not aware of the provisions of the WSCD Regulations which prohibit chumming unless the operator is an authorised WSCD operator adhering to strict chumming guidelines? Is DEA not aware of the provisions of the Sea Birds Act which prohibits the disturbance of gulls unless a permit specifically authorises the disturbance? Is the DEA not aware of the provisions of its flag-ship piece of legislation, the Integrated Coastal Management Act, which prohibits the unlawful dumping of effluent which is what chumming amounts to in these circumstances?
Or does DEA just think that we are all just gullible fools and that we cant see through their woeful attempt to once again “protect” Raggy Charters” on the farcical basis that the law currently does not regulate and criminalise this dangerous conduct?
In 2004 Feike’s Shaheen Moolla, then serving as head of compliance at Marine and Coastal Management, successfully revoked the white shark cage diving authorisation of a Cape Town based operator because of illegal and dangerous chumming. The laws were in place then to act against such arrogant and dangerous thugs; they are still in place and in fact even clearer now.
DEA if you fail to act and enforce the laws you charged with implementing that aim to protect our marine ecology and the public, you will simply confirm what we all already suspect.
Postscript: The reference to the Kabuso Report is to the still secret report which details extensive corruption, fraud and mismanagement at the PE (Nelson Mandela Bay) Municipality. Apparently one of the justifications by the ANC for keeping it secret still is that the findings of corruption etc are so damning that if revealed it could adversely affect the entire province’s economy! Is it not tragic that a municipality so utterly wracked by corruption and failure is named after a man who represents the very opposite?
This blog has recorded a number of breaches of South African fisheries/environmental laws by the illegal boat based whale watching operator, Raggy Charters, based in Port Elizabeth. Despite Feike reporting each breach to the Department of Environmental Affairs, no action of any kind has been taken. Raggy Charters’ black empowerment owner was, until recently, a senior SANParks employee. SANParks is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs and reports to the same Minister.
However, the most recent conduct of Raggy Charters – and the continued refusal by DEA to act against Raggy Charters – is perhaps the most concerning.
It was openly reported this week in a number of Port Elizabeth media that the vessel, Orca, which is owned by Raggy Charters, was seen chumming in the vicinity of Hobie (Humewood) Beach, PE’s premier swimming and recreational beach. Chumming is usually undertaken to attract sharks, which is exactly what transpired as Hobie Beach had to be closed to public bathing on 25 March.
The PE Municipality’s beach office manager issued this statement (see also http://mype.co.za/new/2011/03/i-wouldnt-swim-off-of-hobie-or-kings-beach-for-a-while/#disqus_thread)
Beach Office is inundated with complaints regarding a Blue & White Ski Boat chumming off Mandela Bay recreational beaches. The same boat also search towards the back breaker line between Hobie Beach and Kings Beach.

This was confirmed and picked by our CCTV at Beach Office. The boat concerned was Orca.

The Chumming has caused public panic as ocean swimmers are training for the Ironman and Splash open water activities. Further concerns are that Orca’s activity might attract sharks to the recreational beaches. Any attack on bathers could therefore be detrimental city’s image as Watersports destination. It would be appreciated if Port Control and the ABYC could assist in addressing the matter.

Regards
Fernando Cain
Beach Office
On 29 March 2011, Raggy Charters’ owner Lloyd Edwards admitted to chumming in a Herald Newspaper article. See also the MY PE blog http://mype.co.za/new/2011/03/so-was-someone-actually-chumming-off-of-our-beaches/
It is clear that Raggy Charters is of the opinion that it is able to act in blatant violation of our laws and that it knows DEA (for some reason) will continue to turn a blind eye as it has done in every previous case. Feike will therefore be approaching the Public Protector to investigate why DEA and its Minister – who are charged with enforcing a number of laws broken by Raggy Charters – continue to refuse to charge and prosecute Raggy Charters and its owner.
In addition, we will be supporting the laying of criminal charges against Raggy Charters, its owner and the film crew on board the Orca. The charges will include breaching the White Shark Cage Diving Regulations, the Integrated Coastal Management Act and the Sea Birds and Seals Protection Act. The penalties for violating these laws range from fines of R300 000 and R5 million to imprisonment of between 2 years and 10 years.
Postscript: Lloyd Edwards is named the “hooligan of the day” by the Herald Newspaper (29 March 2011)

IFAD Lends US$21.1 million to Mozambique

A US$21.1 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the Republic of Mozambique will enhance artisanal fisheries and increase the incomes of poor rural households in fishing communities, the United Nations rural poverty agency has announced.
The loan agreement for the Artisanal Fisheries Promotion Project was signed today in Rome by Carla Elisa Mucavi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mozambique to IFAD, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD. The loan will be extended to the country on highly concessional terms. Inshore waters in many coastal areas of Mozambique are becoming heavily overfished due to widespread use of fishing techniques such as beach seines, large weighted nets that can catch an entire school of fish. Catch sizes are falling, and return per unit of effort is starting to decline. However, many open sea areas along the coastline remain underexploited. The Artisanal Fisheries Promotion Project will encourage artisanal fishers to diversify their operations into offshore waters.
The project, which is co-financed by the Government of Mozambique and the beneficiaries, will both raise the incomes of poor fishing households and provide incentives to reduce fishing in inshore waters. It will also bring a sustainable increase in returns from fish sales for artisanal fishers and small market operators. Technical advances in catching, processing and marketing fresh fish will bring innovation and scaling-up throughout the whole fishing process – from boats and propulsion systems to fishing gear and post-catch processing, and particularly in the use of ice. The project also addresses access to financial services. A risk mitigation fund will be promoted to encourage private financial institutions to invest in the artisanal fisheries sector. In addition, community-based savings and credit groups will be more professionally structured and linked with the formal financial sector, increasing fishers’ access to credit.
The project will directly benefit over 40,000 vulnerable rural households for whom fishing and fish products are the principal source of livelihood and often the only source of cash income. Another 40,000 households will receive indirect benefits. The project will build on and scale up some of the successful activities previously implemented by the Mozambique Ministry of Fisheries with the support of IFAD under two projects – the Nampula Artisanal Fisheries Project and the Sofala bank Artisanal Fisheries Projects, a partnership since 1993. With this new project IFAD’s investment in the country’s artisanal fishery sector comes to US$45 million. IFAD’s total investment in Mozambique now totals US$196.2million, with 11 projects benefiting nearly 2.2 million households.
It was back in May 2010 when the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) took the decision to “provisionally” allocate permits to some and refuse permits to others in the lucrative and tourism driven boat-based whale watching (BBWW) and white shark cage diving (WSCD) sectors. These “non-decisions” (as Feike referred to them back in May 2010), were the continuation of a confused process which has only escalated in the levels of oddities, legal irregularities and financial costs to the two industries.
And twelve months on since those legally flawed “decisions”, we are no closer to any answers from the DEA or its minister. In the interim, a number of those new entrant applicants who were promised permits once the appeal process was over are in serious financial difficulty as the loans they took to secure access rights to vessels, payment of the hefty application fees and the services of consultants and lawyers to draft their applications are being called in.
In reality of course, by the time the Minister gets around to sorting out the administrative mess which engulfs the BBWW and WSCD appeal processes, it will be too late. If the Minister does go ahead and allocate permits to any new entrant, they will find that these entities have either been liquidated, do not have access to vessels any longer as the owners have found other uses for them, have simply decided to write the sector off and move on or would not be able to raise the further large sums required to pay for the actual permits to start operating.
Well done to the Minister and her incompetent staff at DEA for supporting black economic empowerment, job creation and all those other noble causes they so easily mouth off in pointless press statements and at farcical lekgotla.
We await your next mouthful of propaganda and excuses.

Losing count of the Fisheries DDG’s?

Are you losing count of the number of Deputy Director-Generals there have been at the Department of Fisheries over the past year? Our count puts them at about 4! And now the latest, Mr Richard Seleke, has packed his bags and returned to the department of agriculture from where he came.
The new acting DDG is Mr Joseph Sebola. He is the third DDG in a row who has no previous knowledge or experience in fisheries but who has been parachuted in to muddle about at Foretrust Building and perhaps learn the difference between a snoek and a hake. It must be noted that as with Mr Seleke and the previous DDG’s, there is no official news from the Minister that yet another person enters the office of the DDG at fisheries. Does she anticipate a short stay for Mr Sebola as well?
A quick google for Mr Joseph Sebola’s experience confirms that he, like Mr Seleke, has his roots in the department of agriculture in Pretoria and has no prior knowledge or understanding about fisheries.
The lack of senior professional fisheries managers or simply adequately trained civil servants has certainly exposed the department of fisheries. For example, they continue to support the widely rejected “community quota” system (which incidentally is even rejected by the Ministry of Agriculture in Swaziland for subsistence and small scale fisheries and aquaculture because of the conflict it results in), remain unable to stamp any authority on and resolve the administrative chaos at the department and continue to mismanage each of the 22 commercial fisheries. And more recently, and based on admissions by the Minister of Fisheries, it would appear that DAFF has been collecting fish levies in violation of the VAT Act. This would mean that at least R53 million in levies would have to be refunded to right holders until such time as DAFF gets its administrative house in order.
We are going to be hopeful and reckon that Mr Sebola will last until the end of the year as the DDG of Fisheries. That would make him the longest serving DDG since Monde Mayekiso’s reign of disaster.
In light of the Minister of Fisheries’ confirmation to Parliament that her department may not lawfully collect any fish levy from any right holder without having first issued a tax invoice, every single quota holder (and that would mean all 3000 quota holders) will be entitled to immediately demand a refund of the fish levies that they paid to the department last year. In addition, there are numerous right holders that were unlawfully charged a “penalty”. This amount needs to be refunded as well.
In addition, right holders could legitimately claim refunds for all previous levies paid where the department failed to issue proper tax invoices. This could go all the way back to the 2005/2006 financial year.
Based on the Minister’s statements to Parliament, she and her department will have to refund more than R53 million rand in levies that were unlawfully collected from right holders. Incidentally, the collection of levies without a tax invoice is also a violation of the provisions of the VAT Act of 1991 and constitutes a criminal offence.
Further, the fact that DAFF has essentially threatened right holders by unlawfully withholding their permits because right holders refused to pay levies without an invoice warrants an investigation by the Public Protector’s Office. Feike will be lodging a complaint with the Public Protector in this regard.

Has the Minister of DAFF deceived?

In a recent response to a Parliamentary question posed to her by the Official Opposition in the National Assembly, the Minister of Fisheries confirmed that her fisheries department only collected fish levies after issuing invoices to each and every right holder by post.
The full set of questions and answers are provided below:
Question 159 for written reply: National Assembly, Mr M J Ellis (DA) to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:
(1) What amount in levies was collected from fishing rights holders during the 2009-10 financial year;
(2) whether all invoices for these levies have been sent to rights holders for the 2010-11 financial year; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(3) whether there have been cases during the 2010-11 financial year where fish levies have been collected without invoices having been issued; if not, how was this conclusion reached; if so, how can this be justified;
(4) whether, in the cases where such levies have been collected without invoices having been issued, her department will refund the levies with interest until such time as invoices are issued; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(5) on which legal provision does her department rely when it collects fish levies in cases where no invoices have been issued? NW172E

Reply:
(1) R 53 million.
(2) Yes, invoices are posted.
(3) No. all invoices are raised and collected through declarations made by the rights holder.
(4) Collections cannot be done in absence of an invoice.
(5) No such cases have been identified. Collections cannot be done in absence of invoices.
(6) No such cases have been identified. Collections cannot be done in absence of an invoice.
So, the Minister states in Parliament that not a single rand was collected from any right holder for levies without an invoice and that no levy is due and payable without an invoice. Now that is news to us and surely to the 3000 commercial right holders! Feike has contacted a random selection of right holders and none has ever received an invoice from the department. In fact we have had numerous clients whose permits were being withheld unlawfully because payment was being demanded by the department despite not having issued invoices to right holders! Minister, we have correspondence in this regard.
We can only draw two conclusions from such a response. The first is that the Minister has knowingly lied to Parliament. The second is that the Minister (despite having special advisers on her payroll) just simply does not know what is going on at the department of fisheries. On both counts, this Minister is a liability to the fishing industry and proper governance.
Minister! Your staff have not issued a single tax invoice for a fish levy in recent memory! Have you asked them to provide you with copies with the 3000 odd invoices they ought to have generated and issued at the end of the last fishing season (December 2010)? Could you please provide us with copies? And we are not fools either. The levy declarations which are completed and submitted by right holders ARE NOT invoices! Feike has confirmed with your finance staff that in fact invoices are not generated and issued to right holders. Right holders are required to pay levies based solely on their own computations in their “levy declaration forms”. Your finance staff confirmed that an invoice will only be generated if a right holder asks for one AFTER they have paid!
Minister, we wait with bated breath for copies of the invoices your department posted to right holders at the end of the last fishing season. (We hope your staff kept copies and that the Post Office did not lose them all while trying to post them).
A further concern is the fact that the Minister states that during the 2009/2010 financial year, her department only collected R53 million in fish levies. During this period, the commercial fisheries would have landed approximately 580,000 tons of fish. If one considers that in 2007, the commercial fisheries landed approximately 550,000 tons of fish and the department collected R82,5 million in levies (at a lower levy rate), then one must ask the Minister to explain how on earth her department collected R30 million less in levies in 2009/2010 than in 2007 and with a larger TAC?
If the Minister is correct and invoices were indeed issued to every right holder, then a quick reconciliation of invoices will show who paid and who underpaid or failed to pay their levies. Minister, please explain the substantially lower rand amount collected by way of fish levies in 2009/2010?
On 1 March 2011, in an article in the Cape Times titled “LIGHTS GO OUT FOR FISHING HARBOURS”, the department of fisheries (DAFF) claims to not be responsible for, inter alia the navigational lights at our various proclaimed fishing harbours. It tries to blame Transnet.
What DAFF’s denial of responsibility does indeed confirm is that this is a department that clearly does not have the professionals skill available to understand what its legal mandate is, let alone actually run fisheries management. Let us be clear about this. DAFF is responsible for the maintenance and proper management of our fishing harbours. Not Transnet; not Public Works.
In terms of section 27 of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998, the Minister of Fisheries is authorised to declare harbours as “proclaimed fishing harbours”. The harbours mentioned in the Cape Times article are all proclaimed fishing harbours. Once a harbour is proclaimed to be a fishing harbour, the Minister is further entitled to determine a range of fees for the use of the harbour facilities. The Minister is then also obliged to maintain these harbours and to allocate a budget for the management and maintenance of the fishing harbours. Indeed, each year the Minister happily increases the harbour fees regulating a range of uses and facilities such as the use of equipment, moorings etc. The current fees gazette was promulgated on 10 September 2010. For the department of fisheries to now claim that it is not responsible for maintenance and management of the fishing harbours is deceptive and rather worrying.
It is increasingly apparent that DAFF is at sea and now does not even know what it is responsible for managing and maintaining. (We of course can not forget that months after she became the Minister of Fisheries, the Minister told Parliament’s portfolio committee on fisheries that she was not responsible for quota allocations!) Do they really know who is in charge of what and what their respective roles and responsibilities are or are they just salary collectors?
How does DAFF explain pocketing the thousands of rands in fees we pay in terms of the annual Harbour Fees Gazette and which are paid directly into the Marine Living Resources Fund? What are they doing with these monies that ought to be applied to harbour management and maintenance? Does this perhaps explain the decaying state of our fishing harbours such as Hout Bay and why there are an increasing number of sunken vessels that are simply being left unsalvaged making Hout Bay resemble something like Luanda’s fishing port?