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Archive for March, 2020

If ever an appellate authority remained committed to repeating a comedy of errors, the Minister of Fisheries' repeated unlawful and irregular decision-making processes in the hake inshore trawl and sole fishing sectors are cases in point. Bad decisions in law and fact were made repeatedly since July 2017. The comedic errors are of course far from funny. These bad decisions simply annihilate any confidence left in the beleaguered fisheries regulator. They harm legitimate private capital interest in the sector. Instead, what we do see is an increase in illicit capital looking at ways to launder their cash and bribe their way to fishing rights. 

These bad decisions have a profound negative impact on right holders trying to keep people employed and ensuring investments return a decent income. 

The question is, given these multiple unlawful decisions, a multiplicity of review applications and adverse orders against the Fisheries Minister (the only hake inshore trawl fishery decision that was ever successfully defended was the DDG's December 2016 decision which was unsuccessfully challenged by Viking Fishing), where does this leave right holders and appellants in this sector

In simple terms, the Western Cape High Court order of 1 August 2019 effectively takes us back to the moment immediately before the Minister took his first unlawful appeal decision in the Hake inshore trawl fishery in July 2017. Accordingly, at that time the fishery had -

  • 14 Category A right holders (Viking Fishing's right was subsequently purchased and transferred to Seavuna Fishing Co (Pty) Ltd); 
  • 6 Category B new entrant right holders; and
  • 6 Category C new entrant right holders.
Those new entrant appellants who secured fishing rights subsequent to the December 2018 appeal decision have lost their fishing rights. They are merely new entrant appellants whose appeal for rights must now be considered afresh by a new minister in terms of a fresh appeals process which is limited to considering the appeals filed by new entrant appellants only.

The Minister may not interfere with the appeals decided with respect to the Category A right holder group. She may also not interfere with the 70% portion of the hake inshore trawl TAC that was set aside and allocated to these existing right holders. 

The Minister may only consider the appeals filed by new entrant appellants in 2017. In addition, Minister Creecy has now correctly called for appellants to supplement their appeals before she finally decides these. 

What should New Entrant appellants do? Obviously, given the passage of time since these entities had filed their appeals in 2017, they ought to supplement their appeals given changes in their financial and economic circumstances, including the vastly different global economic and trade circumstances we presently face. 

Can the Minister allocate more fishing rights to new entrants? The Minister is entitled to allocate additional rights (As the previous minister had) but Minister Creecy has the unique benefit of hindsight given that she can factually determine whether allocating additional fishing rights to new entrants will actually result in job creation, additional economic activity and actual utilisation of the right by these new entrants. 

Can the Minister change the quantum allocation formula? Yes, Minister Creecy can adjust the quantum allocation methodology provided that she does so with respect to the 30% TAC she has available for the new entrant category group only. She cannot amend the allocation of quantum to the Category A right holder group. 

By when must the supplemented appeals by new entrants be filed? Deadline would be 16h00 on Wednesday 25 March 2020. 



If ever an appellate authority remained committed to repeating a comedy of errors, the Minister of Fisheries' repeated unlawful and irregular decision-making processes in the hake inshore trawl and sole fishing sectors are cases in point. Bad decisions in law and fact were made repeatedly since July 2017. The comedic errors are of course far from funny. These bad decisions simply annihilate any confidence left in the beleaguered fisheries regulator. They harm legitimate private capital interest in the sector. Instead, what we do see is an increase in illicit capital looking at ways to launder their cash and bribe their way to fishing rights. 

These bad decisions have a profound negative impact on right holders trying to keep people employed and ensuring investments return a decent income. 

The question is, given these multiple unlawful decisions, a multiplicity of review applications and adverse orders against the Fisheries Minister (the only hake inshore trawl fishery decision that was ever successfully defended was the DDG's December 2016 decision which was unsuccessfully challenged by Viking Fishing), where does this leave right holders and appellants in this sector

In simple terms, the Western Cape High Court order of 1 August 2019 effectively takes us back to the moment immediately before the Minister took his first unlawful appeal decision in the Hake inshore trawl fishery in July 2017. Accordingly, at that time the fishery had -

  • 14 Category A right holders (Viking Fishing's right was subsequently purchased and transferred to Seavuna Fishing Co (Pty) Ltd); 
  • 6 Category B new entrant right holders; and
  • 6 Category C new entrant right holders.
Those new entrant appellants who secured fishing rights subsequent to the December 2018 appeal decision have lost their fishing rights. They are merely new entrant appellants whose appeal for rights must now be considered afresh by a new minister in terms of a fresh appeals process which is limited to considering the appeals filed by new entrant appellants only.

The Minister may not interfere with the appeals decided with respect to the Category A right holder group. She may also not interfere with the 70% portion of the hake inshore trawl TAC that was set aside and allocated to these existing right holders. 

The Minister may only consider the appeals filed by new entrant appellants in 2017. In addition, Minister Creecy has now correctly called for appellants to supplement their appeals before she finally decides these. 

What should New Entrant appellants do? Obviously, given the passage of time since these entities had filed their appeals in 2017, they ought to supplement their appeals given changes in their financial and economic circumstances, including the vastly different global economic and trade circumstances we presently face. 

Can the Minister allocate more fishing rights to new entrants? The Minister is entitled to allocate additional rights (As the previous minister had) but Minister Creecy has the unique benefit of hindsight given that she can factually determine whether allocating additional fishing rights to new entrants will actually result in job creation, additional economic activity and actual utilisation of the right by these new entrants. 

Can the Minister change the quantum allocation formula? Yes, Minister Creecy can adjust the quantum allocation methodology provided that she does so with respect to the 30% TAC she has available for the new entrant category group only. She cannot amend the allocation of quantum to the Category A right holder group. 

By when must the supplemented appeals by new entrants be filed? Deadline would be 16h00 on Wednesday 25 March 2020. 



The Arnie Bengis Money: Where’s the Cash?

On 19 February 2020, the National Prosecuting Authority addressed correspondence to the Fisheries Branch seeking urgent clarification as to whether the Fisheries Branch has - 

1. Ringfenced the US$7.45 million (±R111 million) that were repatriated by the Government of Jersey (United Kingdom) for the purpose of investing the monies for the singular objective of recovering depleted fish stocks, particularly West Coast rock lobster; and

2. Established the required Marine Living Resources Fund sub-accounts into which the repatriated funds would be transferred; and

3. Established the Project Implementation Committee, responsible for overseeing the implementation of the marine living resources recovery projects which would be funded by the "Bengis Funds". 

The NPA reminded the Fisheries Branch that it has been more than 6 months since the Jersey Government had transferred these funds and the Governments of Jersey and the United States require an update as to whether South Africa has adhered to its undertakings. The NPA - clearly frustrated by the Fisheries Department's refusal to respond and confirm adherence with its international undertakings - specifically recorded that "the undertakings and commitments we make to our counterparts in the context of Asset Recovery forms the bedrock of our Mutual Co-operation in such matters. Consequently, compliance with such undertakings cannot be taken lightly."

There are a couple of questions that arise. 
  • Firstly, why has the Fisheries Branch refused to respond to the NPA? 
  • Secondly, has the Fisheries Branch implemented any of the undertakings given to the Governments of the US and Jersey? 
  • And why did the DG of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at the time, Mike Mlengana, accuse the DDG of the Fisheries Branch at the time of misappropriating these funds when he knew that the funds were not even in the Marine Living Resources Fund? 
  • What is the Fisheries Branch's fund implementation strategy with respect to the recovery of depleted marine living resources, particularly WCRL? 
It is astounding that the South African public, and fishing industry in particular, have to date not been presented with the Government's proposed plan for the recovery of depleted resources, especially given the growing social and economic crises afflicting fishing communities with the WCRL trade collapse; the collapse of the pilchard fishery and the annihilation of the legal abalone fishery. 


The Arnie Bengis Money: Where’s the Cash?

On 19 February 2020, the National Prosecuting Authority addressed correspondence to the Fisheries Branch seeking urgent clarification as to whether the Fisheries Branch has - 

1. Ringfenced the US$7.45 million (±R111 million) that were repatriated by the Government of Jersey (United Kingdom) for the purpose of investing the monies for the singular objective of recovering depleted fish stocks, particularly West Coast rock lobster; and

2. Established the required Marine Living Resources Fund sub-accounts into which the repatriated funds would be transferred; and

3. Established the Project Implementation Committee, responsible for overseeing the implementation of the marine living resources recovery projects which would be funded by the "Bengis Funds". 

The NPA reminded the Fisheries Branch that it has been more than 6 months since the Jersey Government had transferred these funds and the Governments of Jersey and the United States require an update as to whether South Africa has adhered to its undertakings. The NPA - clearly frustrated by the Fisheries Department's refusal to respond and confirm adherence with its international undertakings - specifically recorded that "the undertakings and commitments we make to our counterparts in the context of Asset Recovery forms the bedrock of our Mutual Co-operation in such matters. Consequently, compliance with such undertakings cannot be taken lightly."

There are a couple of questions that arise. 
  • Firstly, why has the Fisheries Branch refused to respond to the NPA? 
  • Secondly, has the Fisheries Branch implemented any of the undertakings given to the Governments of the US and Jersey? 
  • And why did the DG of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at the time, Mike Mlengana, accuse the DDG of the Fisheries Branch at the time of misappropriating these funds when he knew that the funds were not even in the Marine Living Resources Fund? 
  • What is the Fisheries Branch's fund implementation strategy with respect to the recovery of depleted marine living resources, particularly WCRL? 
It is astounding that the South African public, and fishing industry in particular, have to date not been presented with the Government's proposed plan for the recovery of depleted resources, especially given the growing social and economic crises afflicting fishing communities with the WCRL trade collapse; the collapse of the pilchard fishery and the annihilation of the legal abalone fishery.