Horse mackerel experiment to be revisited: Minister

2016-11-06 18:23
(Lakruwan Wanniarachchi, AFP)

(Lakruwan Wanniarachchi, AFP)

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Cape Town - While government has settled litigation about its contentious horse mackerel experiment, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana intends to pursue the project in 2017.

The department decided to settle as the permit granted to Global Pact Trading 193 (Pty) Ltd in December last year, would expire on December 14, Zokwana’s spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that the "experiment" would have involved using an Icelandic factory trawler to catch the mackerel, leading to concerns about a decline in their numbers.

"Any decision by a court will be moot and academic by the time judgment is granted," Molapo said.

"To continue to spend valuable time, public money and resources on the matter would, therefore, be unjustifiable and possibly reckless."

This meant that the permit holder would not use the current experimental horse mackerel permit.

Zokwana, the deputy director-general of the fisheries management branch and the chief director of fisheries research and development were the respondents in a lawsuit brought by the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association, and others.

Interdict abandoned

The association and several industry applicants abandoned their interdict application against the minister.

The Sunday Times reported that the project was intended to provide the rural poor with 8 000 tons of the fish. The fishing industry alleged it was an effort to "enrich" Hermanus businessman James Booi, and that the permit had been issued against protocol and advice of government scientific advisers, the paper reported.

Molapo said the State would pay 50% of the applicants' costs after Zokwana conceded that his and the other respondents' conduct between January and August this year had been tardy.

This was particularly due to their handling of the industry applicants' requests for access to the record of decision.

Their failure to make it available timeously contributed, in Zokwana's view, to the industry applicants having to serve an urgent application in August, immediately before the local government elections.

The vessel was being used to catch horse mackerel in Namibia and would not be able to be deployed in South African waters before December.

"The minister does wish to confirm and emphasise his ongoing commitment to pursuing the socio-economic horse mackerel experiment in 2017," Molapo said.

Zokwana intended to restructure the horse mackerel industry to ensure local processing and sale of the fish. Currently, the entire quota was exported, without local job creation and beneficiation.

Read more on:    senzeni zokwana  |  fishing industry

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