Tuna exporters to go to court

2013-12-27 00:00

THE Tuna Export Association will turn to court, rather than dock their trawlers when fishing rights lapse at the end of the year.

Last week the SA Tuna Association received written confirmation from the Fisheries Department that fishing rights would in all likelihood not be allocated by December 31, 2013 and that fishing boats must simply return to port by midnight.

Chair of the Tuna Export Association Steve Cameron-Dow said if the tuna exporters do not have a decision by Monday, the association will turn to the courts to get a decision to remain at sea. He said the tuna fleet was experiencing one of its best seasons in history.

He said he had visited an empty client services centre at the Fisheries Department’s head office in Cape Town yesterday in an attempt to deliver a letter asking for the tuna industry to be exempted from the rights lapse so its fleet can continue fishing after Jan­uary 1. This letter can, however, only be handed over on January 2 when staff return from holiday.

Chair of the SA Commercial Linefish Association Wally Croome said their members were panicking, as January was an important month for line fishers and a lapse in rights would cause “a lot of tears”.

“People are already struggling.”

Cameron-Dow said the department had given the promise the whole fishing rights allocation process, including the appeal process for unsuccessful bidders would be completed before December 31. It takes about two months to appeal.

“If you have to wait two months, you are sunk,” Croome said.

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