Weekly Press Review – 23 November 2012

There was more bad news in the press this week regarding the countries abalone stocks. In a report presented to the portfolio committee by fisheries scientists and officials it is predicited that abalone will be totally extinct by the year 2035, if not sooner.

Once the abalone stock has completely disappeared, South Africa will have not only experienced a great loss from an environmental point of view, but also from a financial and job creation perspective.

As abalone stocks have diminished, younger and younger abalone have been poached and the slow-growing shellfish has simply not had enough time to mature and procreate. In certain areas abalone is already regarded as ‘functionally extinct’, meaning that there are not enough mature adult abalone left to breed.

This is a very sad state of affairs and one must ask where the blame lies?

This week the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) approved the global total allowable catch (TAC) for West Coast lobster for the 2012/13 season. News reports highlight that many in the industry, however, are concerned that the level is far to high, particularly in light of the critical West Coast rock lobster recovery plan.

Shaheen Moolla of Feike has once again been extremely outspoken about DAFF and Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson in particular, who has been accused of meddling in the TAC determination, stating, “Although much-vaunted in parliament as part of the department of fisheries ‘successes’ the implementation of … the rock lobster operational management procedure has essentially been tossed out of the window.”

With the Africana still in the Simon’s Town dockyard under repair and no indication of when the vessel will be able to return to work in order to complete the crucial pelagic survey, it has been reported in the press this week that the fisheries department has been thrown a lifeline. The fishing industry has come forward and offered to lend the fisheries department a vessel, the Compass Challenger, to replace the Africana, in order to ensure that the survey can continue.

Fisheries spokesman Lionel Adendorf said that the department welcomed the offer and was currently putting the necessary processes into place .

Congratulations to the fishing industry – it is not only a ‘boer’ that can make a plan.

Weekly Press Review – 16 November 2012

The big fishing news of the week is that the West Coast rock lobster season is open. The announcement was made by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on Tuesday morning and the season will run from November 15 to April1, 2013.

In typical DAFF style though, many permit seekers have been unable to obtain their permits at the Post Office and have, in fact, been turned away, as post office employees did not know what to charge for the permits.

Fisheries department spokesman, Lionel Adendorf stated that the price for a permit had remained unchanged from last year’s price of R92 and that this information had been communicated to post office staff.

Another case of miscommunication.

Officials from the fisheries branch of DAFF communicated to parliament this week that the number of abalone being poached was high above the legal quota and that abalone had become ‘functionally extinct’, particularly in the area from Hawston to Hermanus. This means that there are too few abalone left to be able to sufficiently increase the population.

This situation comes as no surprise to people within the industry who have been warning of this eventuality for years. Unfortunately, too little has been done too late. Where does the responibility and, more importantly, the solution lie?

Very gingerly mentioned in the press this week was the fact that the research vessel, the Africana, is still in the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town under repair. There has been no official word as to when the vessel will be able to resume its work, but would that word be worth much anyway?

Weekly Press Review – 9 November 2012

The fisheries research vessel, the Africana, had to be towed into False Bay this week after an on board power failure apparently caused by water in the vessel’s fuel tanks.

The vessel, which has had a fair share of media attention since being handed over to the Navy, was in the process of completing the sardine and anchovy stock survey and had just rounded Cape Point when it lost power. The SA Navy, presently managing the research vessels for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that the SAS Amatola and the SAS Galeshwe had been sent to the vessel’s rescue.

Commander Cara Pratten, SA Navy spokeswoman, said that once an investigation had been concluded and all fuel lines had been checked, the Africana would be back at work by Thursday.

With the media hungry to follow up on this promise, the Africana was once again in the news when she did not sail on Thursday as planned. Commander Pratten was quoted as saying that if all goes according to plan the Africana will set sail again on Saturday afternoon. We shall wait and see.

Parliament also heard many complaints this week about the state of disrepair of the 30 year old vessel, which probably only has another five years of service left. The Department of Fisheries has requested an amount of R600 million from the Treasury to replace the vessel, but the request has not been approved as yet.

This week yet another meeting of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries portfolio committee took place with much of the discussion focusing on the management of South Africa’s research and patrol vessels. It would seem that after managing the vessels since March this year, the SA Navy has now expressed an interest in actually owning the vessels.

Acting deputy director-general of fisheries, Joseph Sebola, was quick to point out that at this point Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had reached no decision regarding the fate of these vessels and was looking at various options – including outsourcing – which would possibly mean seperating the patrol from the research functions of these vessels.

There are some big decisions to be made. Let us hope that the minister can apply her mind to them quickly so that the fate of these extremely important vessels can be settled once and for all.

Failing this, we can expect some more negative news headlines closer to the 31 March deadline!

Weekly Press Review – 2 November 2012

The Panos Earth is back in the news this week following the announcement that the once-stranded vessel’s crew will finally be paid some of the wages and living costs owed to them after the vessel was stranded. However, the victory is a small one as they will not be receiving the full amount owed. In a rather unusual occurrence, the preservation costs (the cost of keeping the ship afloat in false Bay) exceeded the amount that the ship was sold for, leaving the crew high and dry as there simply is no funding to pay all the creditors.

Alan Goldberg, maritime attorney for the captain and crew said, “It’s the first time I’ve come across a case like this in all the time I’ve been practising.” He further stated that all the creditors were going to lose out and most would not see a penny.

In other news, a study undertaken by a UN expert has revealed that ‘ocean-grabbing’ is becoming a real threat to food security in developing nations. The term ‘ocean-grabbing’ refers to aggressive industrial fishing by foreign fleets.

The report serves as a warning to all emerging maritime nations to tighten the rules for access to their waters by industrial fleets. Olivier de Schutter, author of the report stated, ‘We need to do more to reduce the capacity of the industrial fishing fleets and to manage the fish stocks in a much more sustainable way.’ The report further states that local fishing is regarded as far more efficient and less wasteful than industrial fishing.

Although making headlines, this may not be breaking news for those in the industry and one only has to look at the claim that this sort of ocean grabbing led to the increase in piracy around Africa to understand the implications.

Our own Fisheries Department will be answering questions on rights allocation, small scale fisheries and security of our fishing grounds next week in parliament – let’s wait and see what headlines they can create in this regard.