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Archive for July, 2014

Having bungled the entire 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP), the Department has now confirmed the bungling of the 2014 abalone fishing rights allocation process. The Fisheries Minister has today (31 July) announced that abalone fishers will be exempted from holding section 18 abalone fishing rights until 30 July 2015 because the department failed to timeously allocate abalone fishing rights when these expired yesterday (30 July 2014). 

Fisheries management in this country has completely imploded. We now simply move from one crisis to the next; chaos is the defining tone; we simply no longer expect responsible and successful fisheries management. We have ruined our history of managing fisheries by means of lawful and legitimate long term fishing quotas and instead regressed to a previous century defined by chaos, illegality, management by "exemptions" and corruption. Is this "transformation"? Regression?

How does chaos, illegality and unpredictable "exemptions"help black empowerment? Which institution will invest in a black entrepreneur in the fishing industry when he has an "exemption"? Who will dare lend money to small-scale fishers with "exemptions" to fund a new vessel, or new engines?

We once ran our 22 commercial and small-scale fisheries in terms of long term fishing rights allocated under section 18 of the MLRA. Long term fishing rights - the Cabinet was told in 2005 - would not only promote investment in our fisheries (and therefore job creation) but it would spur black investment (and therefore deepen transformation and equitable access to our fisheries). Importantly, long term fishing rights the world over proved to reduce illegal and irresponsible fishing because right holders had a long term stake or "ownership" in the fisheries which meant it was in their interests to fish responsibly and displace illegality. 

The fatal combination of incompetence, cadre deployment, corruption and maladministration and senior management without the skills required to manage fisheries has now effectively ruined no less than 10 fishing sectors which are now all "managed" in terms of "exemptions". 

The interim relief lobster sector has been operating under exemption for 8 years now! What is "interim" about this? It will soon commence its 9th season! Each of the 8 sectors ruined by the incompetence, nepotism and maladministration of the FRAP 2013 are now managed under "exemptions". And now so will abalone. 

In 6 months time, we will no doubt add the large pelagic fishery to this list of "exemption" managed fisheries and then lobster, seaweed, hake trawl, horse mackerel and the other fishing rights that ought to be re-allocated in 2015. 

Incidentally, the Fisheries Minister also acknowledged his department's failure to commence the current abalone fishing season timeously when he agreed to extend the current season to 30 September 2014. Accordingly, abalone right holders will be entitled to continue fishing until 30 September 2014. 






President Launches "Operation Phakisa"

The President launched "Operation Phakisa" on 19 July 2014 in Durban. Operation Phakisa seeks to "unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans".

According to the President, the ocean contributed approximately 54 billion rand to South Africa’s gross domestic product and accounted for approximately 316 thousand jobs in 2010.


An analysis was conducted of nine sectors that comprise South Africa’s ocean economy. The ocean has the potential to contribute an additional R177 billion to the SA GDP. In addition, government is of the view that the ocean has the potential to sustain between eight hundred and one million direct jobs.

These growth levers reflect at least 4 percent annual growth in both Gross Domestic Product contribution and job creation.

Four priority sectors have been selected as new growth areas in the ocean economy, with the objective of growing them and deriving value for the country.

These are:
(a) Marine transport and manufacturing activities, such as coastal shipping, trans-shipment, boat building, repair and refurbishment;
(b) Offshore oil and gas exploration;
(c) Aquaculture; and
(d) Marine protection services and ocean governance.


With respect to aquaculture, Operation Phakisa seeks to expand South Africa’s aquaculture sector by generating jobs, especially in fish processing and marketing. In addition, an important focus area is to create jobs and improve participation across the industry in supporting the "transformation agenda".

The fourth and last workstream namely, Marine Protection Services and Governance, recognises that South Africa needs to continuously balance the economic opportunities which our ocean space affords while maintaining its environmental integrity.

The aspiration of this workstream is to develop an "incremental and integrated approach to planning, monitoring and execution of ocean governance and enforcement in the next few years".

According to Operation Phakisa, this will be achieved by:

(a) Developing an institutional framework for the management of South Africa’s ocean space.
(b) The implementation of Marine Spatial Planning of South Africa’s oceans,
(c) Improving the protection of South Africa’s oceans particularly around critically endangered ecosystems,
(d) Sustaining environmental integrity, and
(e) Addressing the skills gap.

It is of course concerning that this Operation Phakisa makes no mention of the critical need to recover our collapsed and overfished fish stocks, to better manage our fisheries and it also makes no mention of the recent recommendations and findings of the Global Oceans Commission report with respect to ocean and fisheries governance.


The DA's Zelda Jongbloed provided a detailed reply to the Fisheries Minister's budget vote. Ms Jongbloed focussed entirely on the calamitous state of the fisheries department and the crises affecting the various fishing sectors, the rights allocation processes (past and upcoming) and the ongoing problems concerning our fisheries patrol and research vessels. 

Given the focus of Ms Jongbloed's response on fisheries, we have elected to provide the complete speech below.


"Honourable chair, two recent developments proved damning for the South African fishing industry: The first was the report by the Public Protector into allegations of a dodgy tender to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium by DAFF. The second was the abandonment of the flawed FRAP2013-fishing rights process.

The Docked Vessels Report still has to be formally tabled and considered by this Committee. But the Public Protector has been ignored yet again. Not a single official (let alone the previous Minister) has been sanctioned in any way for massive failures that resulted, inter alia, in the failed 2013 FRAP, the decimation of our fish stocks due to DAFF’s inability to protect them and the huge amounts wasted in repairing vessels that were in perfect working order when they were handed to the DAFF and the Navy on 31 March 2012. The DDG has now indicated that all the patrol vessels are back at sea which is exactly what the DA has been fighting for. 

South Africa's premier research vessel, the Africana, has possibly been ruined beyond repair. Mr Mannya had stated that the age of the 30-year-old vessel was a problem and that a decision will soon have to be taken whether and when to replace it. The Africana’s age is irrelevant - at least it was when we had a credible and professional company managing our R1b fleet of research and patrol vessels. This vessel should have had at least another 10 years of uninterrupted service had it not been destroyed by DAFF’s and the Navy’s incompetence. 

What Mr Mannya didn’t tell us is that Treasury has previously refused funding for a replacement vessel. This means that for now DAFF's research capacity iro our most important fisheries - hake trawl and small pelagics - will depend on the availability of the SA fishing industry to provide commercial vessels to help out or we run the risk of losing our hard-won Marine Stewardship Council eco-label and access to North American and EU markets for our fish. Can you imagine the impact on our economy and jobs if we lost access to those markets?

Secondly, putting the patrol vessels back at sea is one thing - the key question is how much are we spending on each vessel and how many days will they effectively be spending offshore. Patrol vessels must be at sea strategically patrolling and notrotting in the harbour. 

 I agree with the government’s policy to look after subsistence and small-scale fisher communities. But the only way to properly empower local fishers, is to allocate sustainable  fishing rights to them in their own names rather than in the names of the fancied co-operatives, which have historically proved to be a massive failure and continue to fail. The key management philosophy underpinning all successful small-scale fisheries around the world is TURF - the Territorial User Rights Fishery system, which ensures that right holders are allocated sustainable fishing rights for a long term period on their doorsteps and are also included directly in the management of these fish stocks. Co-operatives have proven to only lead to resource destruction, community conflict and corruption. Why is it then, that we continue to insist on adopting a system of fisheries management that is a proven failure? 

In addition, our focus must not be on the continuous divvying up of fishing quotas to more and more people, making these quotas unsustainable and a tool for illegal fishing. We must heed the warnings of the National Development Plan, which instructs us to halt the unsustainable division of the current fish pie into minuscule pieces that do not assist in poverty reduction, job creation and promoting investment. 

If we are to truly commit to the ongoing transformation of our fishing sector, we must look to investing in new fisheries and expand the current number of 22 commercial and small-scale fisheries to at least 25 by 2015. Why has DAFF not opened a single new commercial fishery since 2004? Why is the experimental octopus fishery an ongoing experiment for more than 8 years? Why is DAFF refusing to invest substantial resources in our mackerel fishery to finally determine a viable and sustainable TAC as opposed to the ongoing annual declarations of maximum precautionary catch limits? The Namibian horse mackerel TAC currently exceeds 300,000 tons. South Africa’s limit for mackerel has been stagnant at 40,000 tons. Why? How many jobs have we sacrificed? How many black investors have we excluded from this high value fishery? 

The DA supports a substantial mind-set shift away from decimating our current fisheries to add more and more unsustainable and uneconomic rights. The DA will fight for the declaration of new and expanded fisheries, including a sustainable but larger TAC for the horse mackerel fishery, a new small-scale commercial herring fishery and a commercial octopus fishery. This will give tens if not hundreds or thousands of right holders sustainable access to our fisheries sector without threatening current investments and denying one person to accommodate the other. 

In addition, the DA will press for the immediate halt of the current destructive patronage systems which have reduced our fishing harbours to the current uneconomic and appalling state in which they are presently. We believe that we can urgently and immediately empower coastal communities such as the people of Hout Bay with a community-based mussel and oyster harvesting fish farming project in the harbour itself. 

But DAFF refuses to remove the fleet of sunken boats from the harbour and ANC cronies like Timothy Jacobs and his pals control access to the harbour and its resources. The abandoned Oceana factory and other spaces in the harbour could be used to develop small-scale tilapia farms and grow-outs! Why is DAFF not supporting our communities with honest and viable empowerment projects? Instead, we keep on talking about taking current quotas away from people or dividing up quotas amongst more and more people forcing people into poverty and poaching. The DA supports growing the size of our country’s fishing and fish farming economies instead of destroying value at every given opportunity.

However, the  bigger issue, honourable minister, is the small-scale fisheries programme, its implementation, the cost thereof, and the  unrealistic  expectations being created in coastal communities. There is simply not enough near-shore resources to meet the huge expectations that have been created in coastal communities. Add to this the department’s penchant for co-operatives to process and market people’s allocations and you have a recipe for disaster. Co-ops as an empowerment tool, is just another name for collectivisation leading to contrived communities with little in common. I’d like to know why DAFF is paying lip service to caring for coastal communities. This committee decided in 2012 after public hearings on the transformation of the fishing industry that co-ops must be avoided. Our history tells us that co-ops in fisheries are a recipe for failure, corruption, resource destruction and community conflict. The DA believes that co-operatives allow illegal activities to be shielded from scrutiny and accountability.  And now we have example after example from Hondeklipbaai to Kleinmond, Mount Pleasant to Stanford. At Doringbaai, DAFF’s flagship co-op is a massive failure, conflict-ridden  with no bank account, no record of income and expenses, no taxes being paid and ongoing poverty.

In Langebaan, just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, fishing rights-holders are suffering under what points to poor governance, at the least, or possible corruption and maladministration in the name of co-operative management by Coastal Links/Masifundisi .

Possible illegal action include unilateral removal of the names of relief fishers from the official relief lobster list; refusing rights holders access to contracts concluded in their names, refusal to hold proper AGMs, refusing right-holders the right to harvest their own catch, turning them into mere paper quota-holders. We need to get Sulene Smith of Coastal Links Langebaan to come and explain to this committee.

The recent FRAP2013-process threw the industry in disarray, left thousands of previous right holders unemployed and without the ability to provide for their families, and forced people to fish on exemption. Each interim relief right is worth less than R2000 a month in income which is why poaching and the illegal fishing of lobster is so huge. The average woman employed to clean fish in a fish factory earns at least three times this amount. 

Why are you forcing people into poverty? Interim relief is nothing more than a mechanism to promote the enrichment of a few "connected community representatives" and middlemen to the detriment of thousands. We need to stop this interim-relief handouts. What we need are the sustainable commercial alternatives I have just detailed above. 138kg of lobster only supports poverty and poaching!

Die agbare pres. Jacob Zuma het belowe om korrupsie uit te roei. Indien dit so is, hoekom word die voormalige, waarnemende hoof van Vissery, mnr. Desmond Stevens, aan wie die Frapp-gemors toegedig word, nie aangekla nie? Of word hy in lyn met die ANC se gewoonte, herontplooi? Hoe kan mense toegelaat word om soveel moeilikheid en ongerief te veroorsaak sonder dat daar enige sanksie, enige gevolge, enige ondersoek is? 

Ten opsigte van die maatskappy Orca aan wie ‘n kontrak van R9m toegeken is om die FRAP-proses te bestuur, wil die DA  graag weer of DAFF die maatskappy dagvaar. Hoe is dit moontlik dat mense met die regte politieke bande visregte gekry het en niemand ondersoek dit nie?

How can the people of this country reconcile such blatantly nepotistic action with a commitment to stamp out corruption if the ones behind this are still working for the Government? There are huge concerns and uncertainty about the implementation of the small scale fisheries programme. The devil is in the detail but nobody is giving the details. 

For proper implementation, all stakeholders should actually be consulted on draft policies, the proposed rights allocation process, application fees etc and then finalising these via Section 85 of the Constitution calling for applications and then deciding these applications in terms of a lawful, transparent and fair decision-making processes.  

Honourable Chair, can there be greater irony than the oyster harvesters from Mossel Bay who lost their rights through the flawed FRAP-process: while their families were going hungry last week because they have not been given interim relief, large numbers of visitors were quaffing champagne and eating oysters and the Knysna Oyster Festival east of their hometown.

And listen to this: as part of the plan to empower fishermen, the DTI has been dishing out boats like lucky packets without putting mechanisms in place to put them to sea and keep them there. The CEO of a big fishing company recently told me that the boats given to fishermen, are not fit for purpose and that the boats are being sold off, part by part, because they cannot afford to run them. This is no empowerment. Why did DAFF not bother to speak to the fishermen themselves before embarking on such a shockingly useless and expensive exercise?  

Honourable chair, I’ve noticed the honourable Deputy Minister Cele continues to call himself General. May I remind him that he was fired before the end of his term so he has lost any right to call himself General.

I find it quite encouraging that an ex-trade-unionist is now the new minister. Maybe he IS the right person to rectify the calamitous mess left behind in the wake of the honourable Joemat-Petterson. Honourable minister, you know what hard work is, you’ve been down mineshafts. The ultimate responsibility to stabilise fisheries, now rests on your shoulders. 

Please visit coastal communities to see the havoc and hardship for yourself. Hopefully you will then intervene and stop DAFF dishing out poverty."

The 2014 Fisheries Budget Vote

On Wednesday 16 July 2014, Minister Zokwana delivered his first budget vote for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department (DAFF). Given the catastrophic state we find are our fisheries department and sectors in, the expectation was that the Minister would provide clear direction on the remedial measures he would be implementing. He has, after-all, been the Minister for more than 2 months now and ought to be well-versed in fisheries and rot he inherited from Joemat-Pettersson.

To say the Minister's address pertaining to fisheries (all 236 words) was disappointing is perhaps being extremely diplomatic. The Minister had essentially nothing to say about fisheries! He did not address the most pertinent and pressing issues affecting fisheries management, including the following- 

  • the rampant corruption that has become institutionalised at the fisheries department. Despite the damning allegations of maladministration and corruption against Desmond Stevens and Dennis Fredericks, both remain employed at DAFF with Fredericks even chairing meetings! The Minister said nothing about fixing the institutional mess that continues to plague this department; 
  • the failure by his department to implement a rights allocation process for the abalone fishery. Rights in this fishery expire at the end of July!
  • the upcoming 2015 fishing rights allocation process. The first set of fishing rights need to be allocated in less than 7 months' time!
  • The Minister did not address the growing community conflict and allegations of mismanagement and corruption affecting the "interim relief" quotas and community based quotas. His department is presently being overwhelmed with complaints of maladministration, illegality and mismanagement by self-styled community representatives who appear to conduct themselves as mafia bosses operating "community" quotas as their personal income streams! 
As far as the 2013 fishing rights allocation process is concerned, which was confirmed to be unlawful and indefensible by his predecessor, the Minister stated that "[t]he fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) of 2013 has been reviewed independently of the Department and I have received the final report. I am consulting with the State Attorney’s office on the legal feasibility of the various options to institute corrective measures where weaknesses have been identified. I will make an announcement in due course on the path to correct these anomalies.

Seven months after the illegal and destructive 2013 FRAP, and there is no clarity! The Minister's 236 words on fisheries I fear confirm that neither him nor his team actually have any solutions to offer. 

We were told that the fisheries sector forms an "...important element of the Ocean Economy Strategy, "Operation Phakisa". Huh? We are not told what this Operation Phakisa is or how exactly it will fix fisheries management in this country. Instead, what we do know is that "Operation Phakisa", according to the minister "...is still in incubation..."! Is this just another still-born plan which will result in nothing? 

With respect to fish farming, the Minister stated that "[a]quaculture development would ensure we close the fish protein gap that may be created by the declining marine capture fish resources. Under Operation Phakisa we plan to grow the aquaculture sector value from two billion rand, as according to our 2010 figures, to up to six billion rand with a potential job creation of up to two hundred and ten thousand (210 000) by 2030." 

The Minister is correct. Growing aquaculture is indeed key to reducing pressures on wild capture fisheries but the Minister's data and expectations appear to be grossly inflated. For one, the value of farmed SA fish is stated at R2 billion as at 2010. Surely not! Our data - based on information from Aquaculture Institute of South Africa - benchmarked the total value of fish production in SA (marine and freshwater) at R327,4 million, which is substantially less than R2 billion! And the Minister wants to increase this value to R6 billion by 2030 and create 200,000 jobs? Perhaps someone needs to inform the Minister that fish farming is not  labour intensive - it is rather skills intensive! For example, South Africa's largest abalone farm, ABAGOLD, which produces approximately 440 tons of abalone annually, employs 350 people. 

The 20 odd abalone farmers in the country employ a total of just over 2000 people and the abalone industry accounts for approximately half of all jobs in the South African fish farming industry. To increase job numbers to 200,000 is simply gobbledegook and confirms that when government sprouts these numbers, they have simply sucked these numbers out of their thumbs. Think about it. Where will the land for all these farms come from? And the water? Fresh and sea-water? What about the electricity needed to keep just one farm running? There is presently not enough electricity to build one additional fish farm in the Overberg! And what about the number of fish veterinarians and farm managers that will be needed? And what species will be farmed? 

Why make such unrealistic and unattainable promises that only set you up for failure? Why not set attainable and realistic goals ... to be achieved in say 5 years' time as opposed to 2030? (Of course by 2030, the Minister will not be around to account for the failure to achieve these objectives). 

Our next BLOG article will consider the response by the DA as the official opposition in Parliament to the Minister's budget speech. 


Why is it that senior civil servants are so unable at planning and leading their staff and government departments? Do they enjoy failure and the public ridicule? Do they care? How is it that they so fundamentally fail to understand what the law requires of them? Is it gross incompetence? Is it intentional, as they certainly never suffer any consequence (except for a bit of "re-deployment" perhaps even to a better paying cushy job?

One cant help but ask these rhetorical questions given the largest fishing rights allocation failure - FRAP 2013 - in South African fisheries management history where not a single person has been held accountable, fired or forced to apologise to the SA fishing industry and public. And the FRAP 2013 disaster is immediately being followed up by the same planning and governance failures in the abalone fishery (rights expire in 15 days' time with the department having done nothing in planning and preparation), the large pelagics fishery (rights expire in 7 months' time with the department having done nothing (again) in planning and preparation) and in the hake inshore trawl, horse mackerel, toothfish, lobster, beach seine, seaweed and net fisheries (rights expire in these fisheries between 30 September and 31 December 2015). And despite the repeated warnings by Feike (again...sigh) and more importantly by the department's own commissioned report into FRAP 2013 that a lawful and proper rights allocation process requires at least 3 years of advanced preparation and planning, we are once again told that the 2015 rights allocation process will proceed and that there is sufficient time! 

What is even more frightening is that this anathema to planning, accountability, respect for the rule of law and just plain responsible governance, is not limited to the fisheries branch. In 12 month's time, permits in South Africa's lucrative whale watching and shark cage diving sectors must be re-allocated and the department of environmental affairs is refusing to consult permit holders - many of whom have invested millions of rands in vessels, sophisticated websites and international markets - on the processes for the next permit allocation process. Permits were last allocated in 2011. 

Some permit holders have been told that they can expect further communication on the permit process next year only! If the environmental affairs' own past performance and timetable are considered, it is clear that it will need no less than 24 months to complete a permit allocation process. And it is not that the department had to deal with thousands of applications. 

It was on 18 August 2009 that the environmental affairs department invited whale watching and shark cage diving applications from the industry and public at large. In total, the department received 77 applications (51 whale watching applications and 26 shark cage diving applications). The final decisions in these two sectors were only taken on 11 March 2011 (whale watching) and 25 July 2011 (shark cage diving). A more inefficient and slow process can hardly be imagined -  77 applications decided over a period of 23 months!

At that rate, and assuming the department of environmental affairs eventually invites applications in June 2015 (assuming further that it is able to obtain comment on the current policies and regulatory framework and is able to amend these in 12 months flat), the South African whale watching and shark cage diving sectors will face the same level of crisis, chaos and mismanagement that has come to define fisheries management in the post FRAP 2013 era. 

And that will not be good for tourism, jobs or investments. But of course, it is apparent by now that our politicians and their cadre civil servants are not remotely concerned with these. 


On Tuesday 24 June 2014, the Global Oceans Commission released its report and findings on the governance and recovery of earth's High Seas - those waters not under the national jurisdiction of any single state. And these waters comprise some 64% of the world's oceans that are presently either unregulated or regulated via a patchwork of regional fisheries organisations established under the the auspices of the United Nation's Convention of the Law of the Seas. 

The Global Ocean Commission comprises 18 prominent former politicians and heads of major international organizations, including South Africa's former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, who served as one of three co-chairs of the Commission. It is worth noting that neither the SA fisheries department nor the SA environmental affairs department have to date said a word about the historic publication of the Report.  

The Commission Report proposes a 5 year integrated ocean rescue package under the banner "Mission Ocean" and identifies 5 key areas of concern and then proposes 8 proposals to advance ocean recovery.

What follows is a brief summary of the Report's key areas of concerns and its 8 proposals aimed at ocean recovery. 

The 5 key areas of concern contributing to High Seas and oceanic health decline are:

1. Rising demand for seafood and ocean-based resources, including non-marine living resources (oil, gas, minerals etc)

2. Technological advances in fishing and non-marine living resource exploration; 

3. Reduction in fish stocks;

4. Climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss;

5. Weak high seas governance, caused principally by the current patchwork of RFMO's and open seas system under the UNCLOS.

The 8 proposals to advance ocean recovery are: 

1. Stand-alone UN Sustainable Development Goal: The ocean is vital to the health of the entire planet and the wellbeing of humanity as it is a major source of food; it sustains economies and provides jobs; and it is the great biological pump that drives and regulates global climate, water and nutrient cycles. But this vital importance is too often forgotten; for instance, reference to the ocean was almost non-existent in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This oversight must not be repeated when UN Member States agree to a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the MDGs for the 2015–2030 period.

The Global Ocean Commission is thus calling for a stand-alone SDG for the ocean, to recognise the essential contribution it makes to sustainable development, and to place the ocean front and centre in the UN post-2015 development agenda.

The Commission is following the negotiations of the SDGs closely, and actively supporting the many countries which are strongly in favour of an Ocean SDG, especially small island developing states from the South Pacific for which the ocean is their major source of livelihood. The proposed set of SDGs will be presented to the UN General Assembly before September 2014. To help ensure that they include a separate SDG for the ocean, the Commission has developed a proposed goal that includes detailed, measurable targets and indicators relevant to the high seas.

2. High Seas Governance: International regulations are failing to preserve the high seas, and to manage its valuable resources sustainably and fairly. The existing governance structure is insufficient, weak and chaotic, and is often not respected. Political leadership is needed to strengthen high seas governance and make it fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

With this in mind, the Global Ocean Commission is calling for:

  • A new global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in international waters;
  • All countries to adhere to ‘the constitution of the ocean’ (UNCLOS) and other relevant international agreements, and to apply them;
  • The appointment, by the UN Secretary-General, of a high level UN Special Representative for the Ocean, to coordinate all areas related to the ocean and the law of the sea, and provide the leadership needed for action;
  • Regular independent reviews of regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to make them accountable for their environmental performance;
  • Regional ocean management organisations (ROMOs) to be created – or formed by adapting existing organisations – that are responsible for the preservation and productivity of the entire ecosystem, rather than only fish resources or specific species;
  • Ocean envoys or ministers to be appointed at country level, to create stronger coordination between ministries responsible for fishing, environment, climate, development, mining and other ocean-related issues.

3. Stop overfishing: Fish stocks are poorly managed and overfished. There are ‘too many boats trying to catch too few fish’ yet, despite this clear overcapacity, governments still grant at least US$30 billion a year in fisheries subsidies. About 60% of these subsidies directly encourage unsustainable practices.

High seas fishing is not equitable. Only fishers from those countries that can afford to subsidise their fleets with public funds can fish in these remote ocean areas; poor countries are excluded. Vessels need to consume huge amounts of fuel in order to travel to the high seas to fish. Fuel subsidies (which generally take the form of tax exemptions) amount to 30% of government fisheries spending. Most high seas fishing is carried out by just 10 nations, most of them developed countries. If it were not for State subsidies, these high seas fishing industries would not be financially viable.

Despite repeated international commitments over the last decade, negotiations under the World Trade Organization have failed to reach an agreement on fisheries subsidies.

The Global Ocean Commission is calling for three major steps:

  • Full transparency – countries should disclose and account for all their public spending in the fisheries sector;
  • The international community should reach agreement on the classification of different subsidies and clearly identify those that are harmful;
  • States should agree to immediately cap fuel subsidies for high seas fisheries, and to eliminate them within five years.
This is a global map of the Exclusive Economic Zones.
SOURCES: GLOBAL OCEAN COMMISSION; FLANDERS MARINE INSTITUTE; BUREAU OF OCEAN ENERGY MANAGEMENT


4. Eliminate IUU Fishing: Illegal fishing severely undermines all existing conservation and management measures in place for fish stocks. It costs the global economy between US$10 and US$23.5 billion a year, and is largely carried out by vessels from a handful of countries that do not adhere to or comply with international regulations.

Poor countries, which do not have the capacity to monitor their waters and whose vital resources diminish because of illegal pillage, are the worst affected. Illegal fishing is also linked to other forms of criminality as fishing vessels can also be used for smuggling people, drugs and weapons. The illegality of the practice needs to be established, the likelihood of being caught and sanctioned needs to be increased, and illegally caught fish must be prevented from entering markets.

In order to combat and end illegal fishing, the Global Ocean Commission is calling for:


  • All high seas fishing vessels to carry a unique identification number and transponders, in order to be internationally identifiable and tracked in real time;
  • The banning of at-sea transshipment of fish;
  • Countries to adhere to international regulations relating to port entry control (Port State Measures Agreement);
  • Countries should adhere to and comply with regional fisheries organisations and arrangements for high seas fish stocks and monitor activities of their nationals and fishing vessels;
  • Regional fisheries organisations should share information on potential illegal activities with other organisations and with enforcement agencies, and maintain coordinated lists of suspected illegal fishing vessels;
  • Illegal fishing vessels should have their flags removed, be refused access to ports and not be allowed access to markets for the fish that they have caught;
  • Countries should monitor all fishing vessels entering their ports, and deny entry to suspected illegal operators and their catch;
  • Governments should collaborate with industry and affected stakeholders to create a global information-sharing platform able to monitor and exchange data on all fishing vessels movements in real time, and so deter IUU fishing;
  • Retailers should commit to sourcing sustainable seafood and adopting effective traceability schemes;
  • Civil society organisations should step-up in their role as independent watchdogs to ensure the application of international and regional regulations. Local, national, and international authorities should collaborate with such independent watchdogs.


5. Plastics, FAD's and the Oceans: Plastics are a major source of pollution on the high seas and constitute a health threat to both people and the environment. Debris entangles or suffocates seabirds, turtles and marine mammals, and plastic micro-particles bio-accumulate, poisoning fish and enter the food chain.

Over 80% of the plastics found in the ocean come from the land, reflecting very poor and irresponsible waste management. However, political and regulatory action is lacking and consumers are not sufficiently aware of the problem.

World plastics production is estimated to increase by over 100 times based on 2010 production levels, from 270 million in 2010 to 33 billion in 2050, a percentage of which will end up in the ocean unless preventative action is taken.

Once it is in the ocean, plastic is very hard to remove. Therefore, the Commission is calling for coordinated action by governments, the private sector and civil society to stop plastics entering the ocean in the first place. Proposed actions include:


  • Establishing time-bound quantitative reduction targets;
  • Creating incentives to promote recycling and extend producer responsibility;
  • Restricting or banning certain unsustainable uses (e.g. disposable plastic bags and polyurethane packaging);
  • Encouraging the promotion and innovation of substitute materials and better recycling systems;
  • Increasing consumer awareness.

The Commission is also concerned about plastics pollution from sea-based sources, notably the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear. Tens of thousands of fish aggregation devices (FADs) are used by the tuna fishing industry alone; many of them are eventually discarded or lost at sea.

The Commission proposes that all deployed FADs be documented, and that each new FAD from now on be made up of natural fibres and equipped with a tracking device. To discourage their abandonment at sea, the Commission also calls for port disposal programmes that encourage the safe, cost-effective disposal of used fishing gear. The use of natural biodegradable materials in fishing gear should also be promoted.

6. Offshore oil & gas: One-third of the oil and one-quarter of the natural gas consumed today comes from underwater areas, and production continues to increase and expand further and deeper offshore and into new regions.

National regulation of offshore oil and gas operations varies greatly from one country to another, and there are no universally agreed standards for drilling operations on the continental shelf. This is problematic as the water column above the outer continental shelf (beyond 200 nautical miles from shore) is part of the high seas and therefore the responsibility of the global community.

Accidents in deep waters are notoriously difficult and expensive to fix, and can cause severe damage to the marine environment. The Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 released nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days before engineers were able to cap the well. As offshore oil and gas operations move deeper and into more extreme environments such as the Arctic, the industry and regulators are and will be confronted by new challenges. International guidelines defining what constitutes an acceptable risk would provide the industry with a standard to meet, regardless of where in the world it was drilling.

The Commission supports the adoption of international binding protocols with safety and environmental standards for offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation on the continental shelf, including provisions for emergency response, and capacity building for developing countries.

In keeping with the polluter-pays principle, the Commission also believes that liability should be recognised and regulated and supports the development of an international liability convention to cover all environmental harm caused by the offshore oil and gas industry.

7. Global Oceans Accountability Board: The Commission calls for the establishment of an independent Global Ocean Accountability Board to benchmark progress – or lack of progress – towards meeting its Proposals for Action and to share this information with the global community and the wider public.

The Board would use clear criteria to measure what has been done and whether it has made a clear difference, as well as holding to account those who are exploiting or mismanaging the high seas.

To enhance transparency and accountability, the Board should reach out to all relevant stakeholders: governments; academia; scientists; the private sector; multilateral development banks and the financial sector; Multilateral Environmental Agreements; the UN; RFMOs; other relevant intergovernmental fora; civil society organisations, including NGOs, organised labour; religious leaders; etc.

8. High Sea regeneration zone: The Commission recognises that continued scientific findings are necessary to evaluate the cumulative impacts of human activities on the high seas so that informed decisions can be made about reversing the degradation of the global ocean. This said, the precautionary principle tells us that a lack of scientific information cannot be a reason for inaction by the international community if we are to ensure the health of the global ocean.

We are convinced that our proposals, if implemented, would reverse the cycle of degradation. But there is a long history of good proposals not being implemented. If this happens, and the result is the continued decline of the high seas, it will impact the whole ocean and people and systems across the planet because of the specific regenerative capacity of the high seas.

We are concerned to ensure that if the health of the global ocean does not improve, then consequences should follow to save this vital natural resource. The Global Ocean Accountability Board should provide independent monitoring of progress. If it reports continued decline after a period of, say, five years or similarly short period of time, then the world community of States should consider turning the high seas – with the exception of those areas where RFMO action is effective – into a regeneration zone where industrial fishing is prevented. Such action would need to take account of RFMO functions within EEZs; and would need to include provision for the ban to be lifted as effective proposals for resource management are put in place for the conservation and management of living resources in the respective areas. The objective of this trigger mechanism and the associated regeneration zone concept is to make fish stocks sustainable for present and future generations, and to replenish ocean life equitably to secure the wellbeing of this global commons for the health of the planet, its people and its biodiversity.

Additional analysis and reading: Newsweek, 2 July 2014. Article by Alex Renton
See also the GOC Facebook and Twitter Accounts for regular updates. 


Abalone Rights Allocation Crisis Full Blown

At its first sitting this week, the newly constituted Fisheries Portfolio Committee was warned by its own Parliamentary research office that hot on the heels of the failed 2013 rights allocation process, the fisheries department was continuing headlong into fresh rights allocation process pandemonium. 

There are now essentially 3 weeks left before more than 300 abalone right holders will see their rights flushed down the proverbial DAFF toilet, together with more than 14 years of investments in boats, jobs, markets and fishing gear. And why? Because the department refuses to acknowledge it failed (AGAIN) to properly plan for and develop a fishing rights allocation process for this sector. 

Certain right holders have however approached the Public Protector's Office. The Public Protector will be commencing with public hearings into the department's failure to properly plan for this latest fishing rights allocation process. 

In addition, I have assisted and advised the Democratic Alliance (as the Official Opposition in Parliament) by preparing a Private Members' MLRA amendment bill aimed at amending Section 18 (6A) of the MLRA to allow for a "roll-over" of abalone fishing rights and those rights that are up for re-allocation in 2015. 

The department has also not commenced any preparatory work or processes for the 2015 fishing rights allocation process. And based on the findings of its own internal legal review into FRAP 2013, the department requires no less than 3 years to properly and lawfully development and implement a reliable fishing rights allocation process. The first set of rights that need to be re-allocated in 2015 is in the large pelagic fishery where rights expire on 28 February 2015 (i.e. in about 7 months' time). 

Given the fact that more than 2 months have already passed since the previous Fisheries Minister declared FRAP 2013 to be illegal and nothing has been done about reviewing and setting aside this process, it is inconceivable that a new 2013 rights allocation process could be developed and implemented before 2017. It stands to reason then, that the 2015 fishing rights could only be properly re-considered by 2020.