The big headline this week is the search and seizure warrant issued by the HAWKS at the offices of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in Cape Town.
In response DAFF suspended a member of its fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) following a complaint that could amount to corruption.
The Hawks confiscated the laptop and cell phone of the unnamed member of FRAP. When asked whether DAFF felt compelled to reveal the identify of the person, Thembalethu Vico, DAFF’s acting chief director for monitoring control and surveillance, said that DAFF would be dealing with the issue internally.
Police have arrested a 42 year-old man in Crawford, Athlone in connection with perlemoen poaching. According to the press perlemoen, with an estimated value of R78 million, was discovered packed into fridges at a mortuary in Philippe East.
The man will appear in the Athlone Magistrates’ court this week.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the worst South African maritime losses ever recorded. According to the press, on November 28, 1942, the Nova Scotia was torpedoed and sank in shark infested waters 48km east of St Lucia in Zululand.
The tragedy resulted in the death of 858 lives, many of them South African soldiers.
Perlemoen rights are back in the press this week with Minister Senzeni Zokwana (DAFF) making the announcement that all existing perlemoen rights’ holders have been granted the right to continue fishing for another year. The existing perlemoen rights expired on Wednesday.
Fisheries management consultant, Shaheen Moolla was quoted as saying that this is the ninth fishing sector to be given exemptions. “What we are seeing is the farcical collapse of the fishing system to what it was in the 90s.”
In other news, the NSRI was called into action this week after various eyewitnesses reported seeing what looked like paraglider or microlight crashing into the sea near Sunny Cove.
Preparing for the worst, the NSRI launched a rescue vessel and headed to the scene, only to be greeted by 15 “Happy Birthday” balloons tied together and floating in the water about 15 nautical miles offshore. Darren Zimmerman, NSRI Simon’s Town station commander, said, “It is understandable that at the distances involved it looked like a crashing paraglider or microlight aircraft and the good intensions of the eyewitnesses is commended.”
A young subantarctic seal has also made the news this week after appearing in the water off Scarborough, a mere 2000km away from its home on Marion Island. The seal is a little thin, so the SPCA has stepped in to help fatten her up and fit her with some high tech tracking gear to monitor her progress back to the island once she is released.
Fingers crossed that she makes it home.
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.
The MV Smart is still in the press this week as efforts to transfer oil from the bulk carrier, which ran aground off Richard’s Bay, are underway. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs: “At the moment, no oil spill from the vessel has been reported. As part of a contingency plan, containment booms have been deployed around the vessel to protect the coastline against any possible pollution during the salvage operations.”
Let us hope that the salvage operation runs smoothly with no damage to the marine environment.
The Kiani Satu also remains in the news this week with the owners going to court to try to establish what caused it to run aground and ultimately sink off Knysna. An official inquiry is set to begin next week.
“Shark warrior” Lesley Rochat made headlines this week as she is set to complete a shark free-dive with Capetonian and one of South Africa’s top surfers, Frank Solomon, in Durban next week. Rochat is an award winning film maker and conservationist and free-dives with sharks in an attempt to change public perception of these creatures as dangerous predators.
Rochat is a woman on a mission. It is nice to see a positive female role model really getting out there and making a difference in the ongoing conservation battle.
Now – who wants to go stage a sit in with the perlemoen and rock lobsters in an effort to protect them?