Fishing rights come up for grabs

2015-07-16 07:53
The fishing rights allocation process is now open for public consultation.

nicole mccain

The fishing rights allocation process is now open for public consultation. PHOTO: nicole mccain

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As public participation opens on the upcoming fishing rights allocation process, transformation of the industry is taking centre stage.

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries is holding consultation sessions on 10 sector policies, which are set to expire this year, as well as a policy on fish processing.

The drafts were published last month and are up for public comment.

For the inshore sectors – which include lobster, net and abalone fishing – rights will be split between small-scale fishers and large-scale companies.

This portion has yet to be decided, project manager Sue Middleton says, but is expected to be announced in October or November.

Always a controversial topic, says Middleton, is the balance between awarding rights to historical holders and encouraging transformation, with which the department has been mandated.

“It’s about balancing new entrants and current rights holders. The fishing sector is aging and needs to let the youth and new people in,” she says.

Adequate inclusionOne of the criteria used to promote transformation is allocation according to race. This will see the majority of rights allocated to black-owned businesses, with less than a tenth going to businesses with coloured owners.

Hout Bay resident Davina Jonathan says transformation is happening through BEE in all sectors, but coloured communities are not being adequately included.

“Why are only 9% of the rights being given to coloured fisherman? They should be included under the Constitution,” she says.

The process is also excluding small businesses, Jonathan believes, as they can’t compete with commercial fisheries.

“Small businesses are often in the form of a co-op working with only two boats. They can’t pull in the same tonnage as a commercial enterprise. They also don’t have the same vessel accessibility and have only smaller five-metre boats. The current system is excluding the small man and they aren’t given the opportunity to grow and move up,” she says.

At a public meeting in Sea Point last week, Armin Weimar of the Wild Benguela Harvest company, who had been in the industry for 43 years, commented that four categories should be created for applicants, which would encourage this transformation.

Different scoresHe believes categories should be created for those who previously owned rights in a sector, applicants with rights in other sectors, company applicants and then new entrants.

“New entrants would be, for instance, five crewmen from a lobster boat that have fished as a crew for their whole life and have now formed a company,” he says.

These categories should be scored differently to promote small-scale fishers receiving rights alongside major companies, he believes.

Fees up 26%Up for comment are also draft application forms and application fees, which have increased by 26%. This is because there has been no increase in the last ten years, Middleton explains. However, small-scale fishers will not be required to pay these fees.

The application process is expected to cost the department R45m, with R10m recovered through the application fees.

The results of the application process will be announced in February next year.

Public consultation meetings will take place at the multipurpose hall in Ocean View and the Hout Bay civic centre on Monday 20 July between 10:00 and noon. On Tuesday 21 July a meeting will take place in Fish Hoek between 10:00 and noon.

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