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Archive for June, 2012

Fisheries Minister Suspends DG

The Minister of Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has suspended her Director-General, Langa Zita according to Landbou.com.

The reasons for his suspension are not yet known. The Minister had suspended her Acting DDG for fisheries in early May.

To date, the Fisheries Minister has not had the courage or decency to explain why she suspended the Acting DDG of Fisheries.

Probably just another ANC-cadre factional battle that continues to constrict the South African civil service into complete paralysis.

MSC Suspends Mackerel Fisheries

The MSC announced in April that the certifiers for seven MSC certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic ocean have had their MSC status suspended.
The suspension notice follows two years of catches above the scientific advice as a result of a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets and the breakdown of international agreements and negotiations aimed at managing the stock. In July 2010, the certified fisheries were notified that – in order to maintain their certification and ecolabel – total catches in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery would need to be brought back under an internationally agreed management regime. This included the catches from countries outside the certified fleets. The deadline for implementing that notification expired on 31st December 2011.
For more on this, click here.
According to the Cape Times this morning, DAFF now admits that the observer programme was terminated because “…it was simply a result of financial and bureaucratic problems.” 
So, “simply” because of incompetent staff who are unable to plan and execute basic fisheries management functions, South Africa’s hake trawl fishery may have its MSC status suspended. And if suspended, we will no doubt lose access to these competitive and lucrative markets. 
It is truly amazing that such an admission can be so glibly made without consequence. The observer programme was terminated in 2011, some 12 months back! Did no one at DAFF bother to think that they should address the “financial and bureaucratic problems”? Why are they only attending to it now that Feike, Industry and the DA have raised a public storm about the massive socio-economic consequences of losing MSC status? 
And before they retort with some dishonest plea about how they have been attending to these “challenges” (ie. incompetence) over the past few months, we need only examine the current financial year’s budget and strategic plan to confirm that the so-called “financial and bureaucratic problems” affecting the observer programme are not even mentioned so it is unclear how these “financial and bureaucratic problems” will be addressed now. Further, the department’s own Fourth Quarter report to Parliament (ref Pg 47 of the Report) confirms that “the scientific observer programme has also been terminated”. Period. This report to Parliament makes absolutely no mention of any alleged “financial and bureaucratic problems” and importantly makes no mention of how the observer programme will be re-instituted. It simply confirms that the observer programme was done away with. 
How is it possible that DAFF and its Minister’s only excuse for this industry-threatening bungle is that they are incompetent? 
The Namibian newspaper reported on Friday 15 June 2012 that Nambia’ Fisheries Minister, Mr Bernard Esau, elected to ignore the advices of his hake scientists and the fisheries advisory council and allocated substantially higher hake and monkfish quotas than recommended.
Nambia’s hake scientists recommended a hake TAC of 130,000 tons; the advisory council recommended 140,000 tons and the Minister decided to set a TAC of 170,000 tons for hake. With respect to monkfish, the Minister added 4,000 tons to the 10,000 ton recommended TAC. 
The Minister justified his decision essentially because he held the view that catches were good during 2011, companies had to be able catch through the year and new fishing quotas were allocated in both the hake and monkfish sectors.
The TAC increases come in the face of continuing concerns with regard to the integrity of fisheries management in Namibia. It was recently reported how a politically connected Spanish businessman and fishing magnate openly bragged about his close friendship with Namibia’s political elite. José Luis Bastos, a Spanish fishing magnate, was blunt: “We are over-catching hake, and I don’t have a problem telling the [fisheries] minister this.”
And Namibia’s hake industry association remains concerned about erratic catch rates. The Namibian Economist reported in May that the allocation of the new quota which runs from 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2013 with a closed season during October, is full of uncertainty due to various factors including the sustainability of the sharp increase in the TAC.
And perhaps something for the South African fisheries department to note very clearly, the Namibians are desperately seeking to penetrate the European and Australian markets but without MSC certification, access to these lucrative markets remains a struggle. 
Mr Matti Amukwa, chairperson of the Hake Association of Namibia, is on record as stating that  “we need MSC certification if our industry is to take full advantage of those markets as they are very sensitive to the issue of Responsible and Sustainable Fisheries.” Mr Amukwa noted that they needed to move away from their current Asian market bias, especially China, as it wanted only “raw products and are not yet prepared to buy value added fish such as hake.”
So while Namibia desperately seeks out access to the lucrative European market and away from the cheap Chinese market, South Africa’s fisheries department is happy to publicly state that South Africa’s hake trawl fishery should not be overly concerned with MSC certification and should instead look to China. 
Namibia’s fisheries minister should however cease to ignore sound scientific advice if his country is to attain MSC certification for its hake fishery and access to EU, Australia and North American markets.

DAFF Changes its False Tune on MSC

After the mind-numbingly stupid comments on MSC by the Department on Thursday stating that the hake trawl fisheries must simply look for other markets if the MSC cancelled South Africa’s hake MSC status, the Fisheries Department has now panicked and suddenly changed its false tune. 
On 15 June 2012, the Department issued a statement suddenly recognising the importance of the MSC certification and the need for an observer programme. Suddenly the relationship between DAFF and the MSC is “solid and strong”. On Thursday, the department held the MSC in contempt stating that “[i]t is worth noting that MSC is not the only eco label — there are also others … “. But on Friday, the relationship is “solid and strong”. The levels of dishonesty are appalling. But it also shows a Department and Minister completely confused and unable to stitch together a vision or plan that lasts more than a day. 
Here is the department’s full statement issued on Friday 15 June.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) would like to reassure the fishing industry as a whole – owners and workers alike – that it is committed to putting the marine research vessels back at sea and the required scientific observer programme in place in a bid to retain the hake deep sea trawl sector Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.A procurement process is underway to contract a service provider for the scientific observer programme – to monitor each vessel of the fishing companies going out to sea for fishing purposes – to ensure compliance and prevent possible over-fishing. The procurement process is expected to be concluded by end of August this year. 

As a responsible government department, cognisant of the importance of fishing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and job creation, the department will continue to do everything in its power to meet all obligations that will ensure the attainment of the highest levels of integrity in the industry.Part of this endeavour is to continuously engage with external and internal stakeholders in the fishing industry in order to ensure that the department meets or exceeds its targets for each and every fishing sector. 

DAFF is committed to ensuring that it meets all the requirements needed to ensure that the fishing stocks get the best value for money and that access to all markets, old and new, are guaranteed.Having the fishery certified by the  Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) does not only help the department to improve its own systems of managing particularly hake trawl fishery, but it also ensures that it meets the highest standards of sustainable management of the stock and add value to it. The relationship between DAFF and the MSC is solid and strong. 

The Fisheries branch of the department is proud of the fact that it has consistently attained an average of 83% score in all previous assessments, and because of this high regard for this eco-label it is currently in discussions with the hake long-line sector and has done preliminary analysis of this sector in preparation for an application for certification.Daff has been locked in discussions with representatives from MSC during the last month as part of their bi-annual country surveillance and we are awaiting the assessment report due next month. 

The department was disappointed to learn of the media statement issued by the DA’s Pieter van Dalen quoting yesterday’s BusinessDay newspaper, but ignoring today’s edition of the same newspaper which sought to allay the fears of the fishing industry.In the discussions that the department has had with the industry there never was anything mentioned about the possible loss of 5 000 jobs. This figure, or any other figure of job losses, remains a thumb-sucked imagination of Van Dalen.

We note the Department’s disappointment with regard to the DA statement on the possible loss of jobs should the trawl fisheries lose MSC certification. Rather than being disappointed with the DA statement, the Department should instead be appalled by the foolishness and irresponsibility of its “spokespersons”. 
Statements issued by the Department last week alone indicate the levels of contempt its officials have for sustainable and legal fisheries management. 

The Department of Fisheries’ Lionel Adendorff issued a bizarre statement on 14 June 2012 stating that “[f]ollowing recent highly irresponsible untruths and misrepresentations concerning the tuna longliner, the Eihatsu Maru, the Chinese-owned fishing vessel that ran aground in Cape Town last month, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would like to state for the record that vessel did not require or was not issued with a foreign fishing vessel licence in accordance with Section 39 of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 (MLRA), as it was not, as a prerequisite of this section,  “used for fishing or related activities in South African waters”.
Adendorff continues to state that an application for a “permit to enter South African waters was received, processed and granted to allow the Eihatsu Maru to use port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo, and it was valid from 8th of May until the 8th of June. An extension, that will expire in July, was also granted. DAFF is not responsible for the implementation of the Wreck and Salvage Act of 1996 (WSA) and can therefore not be held responsible for any salvage operations or its related costs.

It is therefore clear that those who mislead the public and confuse matters have no or little understanding of the MLRA or even the WSA and while this lack of knowledge is aimed at tarnishing the integrity and reputation of DAFF or its Ministry, it is rather a reflection of those who spread these fallacies.”

As Feike issued the statement on our BLOG, he is clearly referring to us in this regard and that we have no understanding of the MLRA. 
As the Business Day editorial states today, Mr Adendorff’s statement (with regard to another foolish statement by him) can only be described as “breathtaking in its stupidity” but also an indication of just how the provisions of the MLRA are being violated and misapplied by the Fisheries Department. 
Ok, lets breathe a bit here and acknowledge what Mr Adendorff admits to in his statement: 
1. He confirms that the Eihatsu Maru is a fishing vessel. No dispute here so the MLRA is applicable.  
2. That the MLRA is applicable to the vessel is confirmed by the fact that he states a “permit to enter South African waters … was granted”. It is not clear in terms what provision of the MLRA a “permit” was issued to a foreign fishing vessel.
3. He further confirms that the permit was granted to allow the vessel to use “port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo.” Now, this is the crucial admission also because cargo refers to the many tons of tuna being transported by the vessel, presumably harvested on the High Seas. 
Ok, Mr Adendorff, this is where the reliance on a half decent lawyer would have prevented you making an absolute twit of yourself. The guy that edits this BLOG is a half decent lawyer who knows a little bit about the MLRA having provided half decent advice to a previous fisheries minister…So Mr Adendorff, its looking really bad for you.
How bad? Well Mr Adendorff not only confirms that the DAFF lacks even bad legal advisers, they confirm that they have just been allowing foreign fishing vessels into SA waters illegally! 
Back to the law. Right, what does Section 39 say? Section 39 (which is under “Part 6: Foreign Fishing” of the MLRA) states that – 

Foreign fishing vessel licences 

39. (1) No foreign fishing vessel shall be used for fishing or related activities in South African waters unless a foreign fishing vessel licence has been issued to such vessel.

So its very clear. A section 39 license MUST be issued to any foreign fishing vessel (ie the Eihatsu Maru) that is to be used for fishing or related activities in South African waters. Now Mr Adendorff states that the vessel was not being used for “fishing”. Ok, let’s accept that.
But Mr Adendorff states that the vessel had entered SA waters because it wanted to ” use port facilities; bunkering, stocking up on supplies and discharging of cargo.”
So any half decent lawyer would then run his (or her) fingers through the definition section of the MLRA and look up what “related activities” is defined by law to mean. (Not looking very good for Mr Adendorff; not looking good at all.)
Found the definition for “related activities“! Its states (full definition)

‘related activities’’ include— 

(a) storing, buying, selling, transshipping, processing or transporting of fish

or any fish product taken from South African waters up to the time it isfirst landed or in the course of high seas fishing; 

(b) on-shore storing, buying, selling or processing of fish or any fish product

from the time it is first landed; 

(c) refuelling or supplying fishing vessels, selling or supplying fishing

equipment or performing any other act in support of fishing; 

(d) exporting and importing fish or any fish product; or  

(e) engaging in the business of providing agency, consultancy or other

similar services for and in relation to fishing or a related activity.

So, based on Mr Adendorff’s admissions, Section 39 certainly applies because – 
1. The Eihatsu Maru is a foreign fishing vessel;
2. The vessel wanted to use SA port facilities for bunkering and stocking up on supplies (para (c) of definition); 
3. The vessel wanted to discharge its cargo of fish (para (a) – transshipping, processing and transporting of fish taken in the course of (presumably) high seas fishing); and
4. We can assume that because it wanted to discharge its fish, it wanted to to store, sell or process the fish (para (b) of the definition). 
So, Mr Adendorff, it does not look like we published anything that was “highly irresponsible untruths and misrepresentations”. 
In fact, Mr Adendorff, you have now confirmed that the Fisheries Department has been allowing foreign fishing vessels into South African waters in clear violation of section 39 of the MLRA. And further, that your department’s incompetence and lack of understanding of our fisheries laws has now forced tax payers to incur unnecessary costs because had you issued the correct licence and adhered to the provisions under section 39 of the MLRA to the Eihatsu Maru the Fisheries Department could have called on the guarantees that ought to have been provided or claimed from the vessel’s insurer. 

Read This: The Business Day Editorial

If you read only one thing today (besides our BLOG of course) then read today’s editorial in the Business Day.

EDITORIAL: Department at sea over licences
It is a wonder that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson survived Tuesday’s Cabinet reshuffle.

IF THE Springboks play tomorrow the way the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has handled its responsibilities of late, we are in for a hiding from England. The department has dropped the ball badly in a number of areas, most recently with regard to the commercial hake industry’s membership of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The suspension of SA’s annual observer programme, which entails sending independent scientific observers out to sea to determine the size and sustainability of the hake stock, means no MSC certification. And no MSC certificate means a significant number of customers, particularly in Europe, who have committed to buy only certified fish, will be forced to look elsewhere for supplies.

This is no minor issue for an industry that has suffered in recent years from a combination of fluctuating fish stocks and under-investment prompted by uncertainty over fishing rights.

Spokesman Lionel Adendorf’s glib response that losing access to much of the European market, which takes a share of SA’s hake valued at R1,4bn every year, will “give us an opportunity to look at new markets” is breathtaking in its stupidity.

Read the full editorial here.

Our BLOG Readership Increases

Our daily BLOG readership continues to grow! On 13 June, we recorded the highest single-day page-views yet. We now regularly receive 1000 visits a day with SA and US visitors the most regular readers.

Please remember to donate to our BLOG account so that we can continue bringing you the analyses of the South African fishing industry and the growing poisonous politics in which it tries to function!

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The Business Day this morning confirms what we have been saying for some time now. The Minister of Fisheries has now confirmed that it is her intention to destroy the sustainability and economic well-being of the South African fishing industry and particularly the most lucrative hake trawl sector. 
The responses of the Fisheries Department’s spokesperson to concerns that SA may lose its much vaunted MSC certification is indicative of a government completely out of touch with economic and market realities. The Department is essentially of the view that it does not particularly care about MSC certification, as there are other eco-labels and other markets so the hake trawl industry must just look for other markets and who the department is not concerned if industry profitability is affected. 
In other words, this government does not give a damn if South Africa loses access to vital export markets; if we lose jobs; if companies become less profitable (and thus pay less taxes and employ fewer people). And you dont just establish “new markets”! This is the fundamental problem with deploying ANC cadres into jobs requiring specialist knowledge. MSC certification does not only allow South Africa to sell its hake into the lucrative EU market, but it also ensures sustainable and responsible fishing, thus protecting South Africa’s marine ecology. If the Fisheries Department and its Minister employed people who knew anything about fishing, they would also realise that it was MSC certification that protected the hake trawl industry from the fate that befell the non-MSC certified hake long line industry. This sector was forced to shift markets rapidly from the EU to the East (as the department now suggests trawled hake must do), and the result has been economic meltdown in the hake long fishery. In 2006, the landed value of the fishery was in excess of R250 million. By 2011, this value had declined to less than R110 million. 
If one compares the MSC certified hake inshore trawl and the non-MSC certified hake long line fisheries, one can understand how important MSC certification has been to protecting jobs and profitability. Both fisheries land approximately the same quantum of fish annually. However, company profitability in the inshore trawl fishery is some 7 times greater than in hake long line; investments in infrastructure (vessels and factories) by the inshore trawl sector averages R700 million while investments by the hake long line sector averages a minuscule R1,6 million. And when it comes to jobs, the average wage bill in the hake long line sector is R413,000 while the comparative figure in hake trawl is R57 million. 
So when the Fisheries Department denies that the loss of MSC certification will result in the collapse of the hake trawl fisheries and the loss of substantial jobs and a consequential increase in poverty, it is apparent that they simply do not have a clue what they are talking about. 
How is it possible that such levels of idiocy are allowed to continue to regulate the fishing industry? This government is so riddled with contradictions and incompetence it is beyond comprehension. On the one hand you have the destructive mentality of the Minister of Fisheries that is determined to destroy the commercial fishing sector, and on the other hand you have the Minister of Planning and his clever grouping of commissioners drafting a 400 page document to chart South Africa’s future into a modern developed economy. 

Did the Fishing Industry Miss the Boat?

So President Zuma finally did his mini-cabinet shuffle and despite all the corridor whispers, the Minister of Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, remains in her post. 
Yes, we can all turn to each other and demand to know how is this possible! This Minister has after-all single handedly moved to destroy the fishing industry. The answer perhaps is that the fishing industry has remained too silent; too reliant on quiet diplomacy in the face of a rabid anti-fishing industry Minister. 
Consider the fact that civil society stood up and demanded that the e-tolls in Gauteng be scrapped; took the government to court to assert their rights and won and then won again as the President was forced to sack both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Transport. 
Instead, the South African fishing industry has now forsaken the last possible Cabinet shake-up for the forseeable future faced with the prospect of the loss of MSC certification for hake; implementation of the small-scale fishing policy which will destroy substantial economic and ecological value; no observer programme; no research vessels; no fisheries patrol vessels; and absolutely no leadership at the fisheries ministry or at the Department. 
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