Fishing quotas under scrutiny

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Fishing companies that were not granted long-term fishing permits last month are prepared to take to the seas illegally to secure their livelihood.

This comes after the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) released on December 30 a list of companies that had been granted and denied fishing permits.

Natural resource management advisers Feike said it “strongly supports the call for all fishers to put their boats to sea as an act of united and mass defiance against this (department’s) unlawful series of decisions”.

Its managing director Shaheen Moolla said the department had “ruined the livelihoods of hundreds of traditional line fishers, tuna pole, hake handline and shark demersal fishers”.

“These fishers have invested millions of Rand, created thousands of jobs, paid their taxes and fish levies to this government, religiously complied with fishing permit conditions and DAFF’s mundane bureaucratic rules only to be denied long-term fishing rights,” said Moolla.

“They are grief stricken. What are they going to do this January? How will bonds be paid? What about school fees, groceries and electricity?”

Moolla said: “Ultimately it will have to be the courts that will have to intervene in this mess.”

DAFF’s director-general Edith Vries said fishing companies that were not granted permits had until early February to appeal against the department’s decision though.

“There are people who are unhappy but there are also people who are happy that they have fishing permits. They should all be aware that we are on their side. There is an appeal process,” said Vries.

“There are people who did not get fishing rights because they did not fish. This has been monitored. They have disqualified themselves because they didn’t utilise their rights. We allocated those quotas to someone else who can make a living.”

Vries said DAFF could only allocate a certain number of permits to protect the ocean’s resources.

“There’s a total allowable catch, based on international research and science, in terms of the availability of the species. The number of permits we have issued is in line with the total allowable catch for those species,” she said.

“We have kept a reserve of permits that we can allocate to persons who are successful in their appeal (against the department’s decision not to grant them a fishing permit).”

Vries said DAFF received 300% more applications than the last time, in 2005, when it granted long-term fishing permits countrywide. The department’s nine-month licensing process concluded on December 30 when it named successful applicants.

“We engaged all along the coastline with fishers and 80% of the persons given fishing rights are small-scale fishers. We are growing the fishing community,” said Vries.

The SA Commercial Line Fish Association meanwhile complained that DAFF’s decision had left “hundreds of fishers and their crew members without a future in the traditional line fishery and with no means of securing an income”.

It said in a statement the department was “being totally unrealistic by replacing rights holders with between 10 to 30 years experience with new entrants”.

“This could have a knock-on effect to the productivity of the sector and possibly result in declining catches which will in turn have a dramatic impact on marketing dynamics.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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