Weekly Press Review – 13 June 2014

Despite The SA Commercial Line-fish Association (Sacla) opposing the intervention of small scale fishing communities in a main court application for fishing rights allocations, the Western Cape high court this week  granted permission for the Masifundise Development Trust to be included in the application process.

According to local newspapers, the Masifundise Development Trust is representing small scale fishing communities and is determined to have their say and be part of the application brought against former fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and her former acting deputy director-general Desmond Stevens.

Last month the Western Cape High Court extended a two-month exemption previously granted to commercial line fishermen until a legal review into last year’s fishing rights allocation process had been completed.

It was at this point that Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that the allocation process would be set aside following the results of an independent audit.

Despite the minster moving on to a new portfolio, it would seems that she cannot escape the fall out of the fishing rights allocation debacle of 2013.  We wait to see what the outcome of this court battle will be.

It was reported in the press this week that the large container vessel the E-Whale has finally left Cape Town harbour. The vessel was arrested two years ago with various debt issues and was recently bought by Pacific Orca Holdings for R646.3 million.  The vessel left the harbour on Saturday on its way to Port Elizabeth and has been renamed Abby.

In environmental news it was reported in several local newspapers this week that a sea turtle with a cracked shell was rescued from the rocks at Rooipan se Klippe near Yzerfontein.  “Assisted by members of the public, our sea rescue crew carried the sea turtle to our rescue vehicle and the Department of Oceans and Coasts was alerted,” said Rudi Rodgers, NSRI Yzerfontein station commander.

The turtle will be treated at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Also in the news this week was the announcement that Singapore has joined China in banning shark fin soup from its exhibition and convention centre menus.  The news was welcomed by wildlife and environmental activists.

World Oceans day was celebrated this week under the theme, “Together, we have the power to protect the oceans.”  To commemorate the day, the United Nations called on the international community to continually work at keeping our oceans healthy and productive and also to try to use the resource with mindfulness, equity and sustainability for the benefit of both current and future generations.

In his message marking the day Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “We have to ensure that oceans continue to meet our needs without compromising those of future generations.  Their depths hold current and future solutions to humanity’s energy needs.”

Weekly Press Review – 23 May 2014

The failed 2013 fishing rights allocation process (FRAP2013) has continued to make headlines this week.  While the audit into FRAP 2013 by Harris Nupen and Molebatsi found no evidence of corruption, the audit did reveal that the process was rushed, flawed, contained “critical lapses” and was driven by the desire for “an appropriate outcome” rather than to meet the needs of the fishery.

The disaster of the 2013 fishing rights allocation process has caused much anger and frustration and has cost the country’s tax payers millions of rands, but where to now?   Let us hope that the mistakes of the last year can be put aside and the new fishing rights allocation process will be well planned, well co-ordinated, well implemented and well received.  One tall order.

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson herself has been quite outspoken in the press this week.  In an interview with a Cape Town newspaper she stated that, when starting with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), she had taken over a department “filled with corruption” and that she was shocked by the number of officials living well above their means, adding that she had  chosen to work for the poor.  One can only assume that after making comments along these lines it would be hard to return to work on Monday ….

She also stated that commercial perlemoen quotas needed to be looked at urgently and that changes could be expected as soon as the end of July this year.

It would seem that changes are definitely afoot at DAFF and everyone is awaiting the announcement of ministerial positions.

In other news, after two years in Table Bay harbour, the vessel, the E-Whale, has been sold to a foreign company for $61 million (R637m).  The vessel was arrested in April 2012 after various creditors alerted local authorities of large outstanding debts on the vessel.

A deposit has been made by the company purchasing the vessel and they now have five days in which to settle the outstanding balance before taking ownership.

Weekly Press Review – 10 May 2013

The big news of the week this week is the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that Desmond Stevens will take over as acting head of the fisheries department after Greta Apelgren-Narkedien stepped down last month. The department is now in the process of appointing a permanent head of fisheries.

We wait with bated breath.

The Paternoster fishing community has made the news this week with a plea to the government to increase their crayfish quotas and ease regulations. During a meeting held in Paternoster with DA parliamentarian Pieter van Dalen, fishermen stated that their concerns had largely been ignored over the past seven years.

Peter Coraizen, representing small-scale fishermen on the local council, said that fishermen generally earn less than R500 per week, resulting in their children leaving their studies to join their parents in an attempt to increase family revenue.

The quota system offers no easy solutions and it is almost impossible to please all the parties involved, but it would be nice to see the small-scale fishing community taken care of more appropriately.

In a follow up to last week’s story regarding the arrested vessel, the E Whale, and the crew stranded aboard. The Taiwanese bank that owns the vessel has agreed to take responsibility for the wages of the crew until such date as the vessel is sold.

Good news for the crew and nice to see a financial institution stepping up and doing the right thing.

Weekly Press Review – 3 May 2013

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has made the headlines again this week regarding the country’s patrol and research vessels. Cape Town based company Nautic South Africa has won a six month contract with DAFF to run the fleet – a service that has seen its fair share of controversy over the last 18 months.

The announcement was made by Nautic and not the department.

James Fisher, chief executive of Nautic, said that the company was aware that they would be holding a bit of a ‘hot potato’ given the controversy around the vessels, but believed that what was needed was “a practical and pragmatic approach to get the vessels working and out to sea. Our approach is to solve the problems as soon as possible.”

Let us hope that these words can be put into action.

On the subject of DAFF, Greta Apelgren-Narkadien is no longer with the fisheries branch. After just five months in the position, Apelgren-Narkadien has left the post to take up the position of head of human settlements in Kwazulu-Natal.

The vessel the E Whale also made the headlines this week. More than a year after being arrested, due to financial issues surrounding her sister ship, A Whale, the vessel sits about 3km from shore with crew members trapped aboard for up to four months at a time.

Needless to say there are wage disputes and the only way for funds to be recouped would be to sell the vessel, which is in itself not a quick process. Until that happens, the crew have no choice but to remain aboard.

What a terrible situation for the crew who obviously have nothing to do with the financial woes of the owners, Today Makes Tomorrow International, and want nothing more than to be paid for a job that they have already done and get home to their families. Let’s hope that this situation can be solved as quickly as possible.