On 15 May 2012 the Department of Fisheries held its Cape Town “dialogue” with members of the South African fishing industry at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point. The Department was represented by its Acting Deputy Director-General, Mona Mashaba (the 7th acting DDG since Dec 2010), the director of “stakeholder” liaison, the acting Chief Director of Fisheries Management and the Chief Director of Compliance. It is worth noting that Dr Mashaba is not a “new” Acting DDG as this is his second stint as Acting DDG of Fisheries. His first was when he temporarily replaced Monde Mayekiso in December 2010. 
To be honest, the Department made its usual slide presentation on what its key objectives are and used all the catchy buzzz words like “stakeholders”, “partnerships” and “consultations” but frankly there was no substance and when the pressure mounted with questions especially from Feike, there was little interest in dialogue with the Chief Director of Compliance refusing to answer questions about the patrol vessels and begging the chair for “protection”! Shame.

We cant understand why they call something a “dialogue” when they are more interested in a Mona logue. 

Coming out of this meeting, there can be little doubt that the Fisheries Branch is in a state of crisis, precipitated by a Minister who lacks any leadership skills. For example, the staff sheepishly admitted that they were forced to miss crucial international meetings because the Minister failed to authorise international trips despite a three month advance notice period! Top management vacancies continue to remain vacant because of bureaucratic “processes” (ie bungling and incompetence). Mashaba even admitted that despite having interviewed more than 5 people for the post of DDG: Fisheries Branch, selected candidates have refused the post – nobody wants the post once they realise what it involves and perhaps who they have to report to! So we at least now know that if they ever appoint a permanent DDG for Fisheries, the person will be someone completely unimpressive and unsuitable for the post but probably just desperate and glad to be employed.
Some of the key issues that were raised during the meeting were as follows: 
Small scale fishing policy: DAFF confirmed that the Small Scale Fishing Policy was adopted by Cabinet but also confirmed that they do not have an implementation plan in place although implementation is scheduled for the end of 2012. What is also apparent is that DAFF (And quite frankly no one we have spoken to) have a clear understanding of who is a “community” what are “coastal communities” and who will be part of a “community”. It is also clear that the Department does not have any idea as to where the fish will come from to support the implementation of the Small Scale Policy (perhaps their plan is to grow to poaching into its own separate economic sector – that already works very well with departmental support in the abalone fishery).

But their most concerning admission was that they are “hoping” current small scale individual quota holders will “volunteer” their quotas into the “community” pot! And another 2 !!

It is clear that the Department and its Minister do not reside on this side of the Milky Way. When Feike pointed out that this thinking was so far from reality that it is simply not feasible, the department’s officials simply shrugged their shoulders, no doubt having adopted their adviser – Andy Johnson’s – strategy of it fails (again) so what? Think about it. The department has pinned implementation of the policy on current small scale fishers who earn decent annual salaries from their quotas, pay taxes and employ thousands of people to simply hand their entire livelihood to the “community”! This soviet/stalinist thinking simply has no place in a modern democracy. Which small scale commercial fisher is going to hand over his entire business and his future to an undefined rabble called the “community” who will undoubtably plunder and destroy? That is because we and many others have some idea as to who the “community” is going to be!

We have said it before but it must be said again: the Small Scale Fishing Policy will only lead to poverty, unemployment and resource destruction. Look at SACFC, the 6 years of the failed interim relief process and the disaster of the Doringbaai community quota pilot project. 
Monitoring and recording of catches: It was pointed out that the awarding of a tender to appoint a suitable catch monitoring service provider has been repeatedly delayed over the past year. The consequence of this of course has been demonstrated by the massive overcatches by the interim lobster quota holders whose catches were rarely if ever monitored and recorded. 
Investments by small-scale quota holders: A quota holder demanded to know that if the small scale fishing policy was implemented, what would happen to the investments made by current small-scale fishers. The department was reminded that when the long term fishing right policies were issued, quota holders were encouraged to invest in gear, equipment, jobs and vessels. What will happen to these investments? The department failed to provide any answers to this critical question other than to insist that they are “developing an implementation plan”. 
Section 21 transfers: The department was questioned as to why section 21 fishing right transfers remained in the doldrums. The department’s revealing answers were that they treated a transfer application like a rights application; that they had a back-log of more than 160 transfer applications; and of course they do not have sufficiently skilled legal staff. Well there are the problems! Incompetent and unsuitable staff and inappropriate evaluation criteria. Transfer applications are NOT right applications! Transfers are only subject to the criteria set out in the Transfer of Fishing Rights Policy, read with the Transfer of Rights application form, and not subject to the evaluation criteria of the General Fisheries Policy of 2005 or sector specific policies. Review anyone?

Representation of fishery sectors: The Acting DDG made one of the more bizarre statements of the meeting when he stated that government would prefer to meet with one industry body instead of 22 (there are 22 commercial fishing sectors). What the Acting DDG obviously does not understand is that the fishing industry is not one homogenous grouping of people who go to sea in fishing trawlers! He was also unaware of the fact that industry had established an umbrella representative body – FISHSA – in June 2011 incorporating some 11 fishery sector representative bodies. Talk about out of his depth. 
Research and patrol vessels: The chief director of compliance simply refused to answer Feike’s questions on the subject but we refused to relent, interjecting and demanding a response which finally came in a series of damaging admissions, which included officials (ok actually just one official) uttering the words “SMIT Amandla”. I kid you not.  
Admission 1: The Africana will not be able to undertake any further surveys this year. Why that is we were not told. Did a naval officer stick an AC connector into a DC socket? Did they break it? 
Admission 2: The pelagic survey will be undertaken by the end of May but will be “outsourced” and a private vessel will be sourced to undertake this. Effectively this means that SMIT Amandla will no doubt be asked to crew the “private vessel” which will be paid for and sourced by the pelagic industry. (Will Tantrum Tina will  play dumb after the fact and throw a tantrum and suspend someone)? 
Admission 3: The department is unable to say when the research and patrol vessels will get to sea (if ever). Feike understands that it is extremely unlikely that the patrol vessels will go to sea in the next 10 months leaving our oceans completely exposed to rampant and unchecked illegal fishing. So while Tantrum Tina continues to throw hissy fits at Press Clubs and debates moving fisheries from Cape Town to Pretoria to “equitably spread fish” across the country, our fish stocks are free for plunder and research is as relevant to this Minister as accountability. We also understand that since being handed over to the Navy on 30 March 2012, the vessels’ engines have never been started which would have resulted in substantial damage by now – These engines require starting every day, we are told.

Tid Bits: The department also revealed a number of other objectives, which we will refer to as “tid bits”. DAFF wants to establish 3 more proclaimed fishing harbours because they stated that all of the current fishing harbours are in the Western Cape (in fact 11 are in the Western Cape and 1 in the Northern Cape at Port Nolloth but that place is quite god-forsaken and I understand the error). Although they dont seem to know where they will set up three more fishing harbours, and while we dont mind more fishing harbours (but three is quite pitiful. The Western Cape and the DA will still have 11 and the ANC only 4), the department could not explain why increase the numbers of harbours when they cant remotely manage the current 12. Just look at the shocking state of decay in the biggest and most important fishing harbour, Hout Bay. We cant understand this commitment to increase failure.

Finally, we were told that the department has established an integrated fisheries compliance strategy subsequent to an extensive consultation process which nobody seemed to be aware of, including the abalone fishing industry which was present. It is worth noting that we heard these same buzzz words about two years ago and how the department was going to work with the Hawks, the National Intelligence Agency and Neptune himself to combat poaching…

But, in the words of Mel Brooks, lets end on a high note. The department confirmed that it is focussed on developing 4 new fisheries with two presently underway. Experimental permits for a resuscitated octopus fishery will be issued shortly and a whelk fishing experiment is underway (albeit that it is being conducted unlawfully in an MPA and the Department of Environmental Affairs opposes it!). The department has also identified possible commercial red-bait and red-eye fisheries. Feike has been singing this song for the last 7 years. The only way to sustainably grow participation and investment in and the economic value of the fishery sectors is to grow the number of commercial (AND not subsistence) fisheries.

And lets add to these new fisheries by fast-tracking the development of sustainable commercial abalone and east coast rock lobster fisheries.

Final Final: The chief director of compliance told the meeting (but directed at Feike) that we must stop behaving like journalists! I am sure that they cant wait for the Secrecy Act! 

Filed under: Uncategorized

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!