The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Committee on fisheries and aquaculture. Aquaculture was defined as the culture of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and plants, either in cages within the shallow waters of the ocean or dams or structures or on land fed by water. , A short history and context of aquaculture was given and the Department outlined the development programmes that were already in place, and threats that the industry was facing. The industry employed around 22 000 people directly, and was worth around R2 billion per year. Current catches had declined due to increased demand and technology advances, and pressure on resources as well as climatic issues led to the migration of fish from the West to South coast of
Members asked whether it would be financially viable to proceed with investment in the Gariep Dam, asked why catfish were not considered particularly viable for aquaculture, what type of mussel species were used, what impact this had on indigenous species, and what was done about prawn production. Members also asked for more information about abalone farming and the West Coast rock lobster, which had been so badly over-fished that certain projects had closed. Members asked if closing fishing would allow for stocks to recover, what would be the final resort, and what alternatives were planned in areas where fish stocks had been depleted. Members questioned the nature of the advisory forum and asked if it was intergovernmental. Members also noted that Saldanha Bay communities were no longer relying on fishing and asked what the Department had done to try to develop their skills in other areas, stressing their view that the Department should be proactive and provide infrastructure, and also suggested that better monitoring and evaluation were needed, that there was currently over-regulation and that quotas should be reconsidered. The Department was asked to provide more detail on the assistance given to farmers to move into the market, asked what provincial support there was, and requested written answers to the questions.
Fisheries and Aquaculture briefing: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department)
Mr Andile Hawes, Deputy Director General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, indicated to the Committee that the Department’s mandate in terms of agriculture came out of renewable resources like water. Water was associated with risks such as temperature change, pollution, biodiversity decline and water shortages. Any changes in water affected the surrounding agricultural activities, and any climate changes affected both of these. The Department felt that it was important to use the resource of agriculture to address problems of food security.
Mr Belemane Semoli, Deputy Director: Mariculture, DAFF, explained that the fisheries sector in
This had affected many traditional fisherman and fishing communities around the
Aquaculture was defined as the culture of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and plants, either in cages within the shallow waters of the ocean or dams or structures on land fed by water. Aquaculture had been expanding rapidly across the world and
He argued that in
The DAFF was not the only body responsible for developing this sphere, but had taken the lead in the development of marine and freshwater aquaculture. Other departments were involved, including the Departments of Science and Technology, of Trade and Industry, of Water and Environmental Affairs, of Health, the South African Bureau of Standards, the Department of Tourism and various municipalities. An advisory forum had been developed in this regard and had brought all of the departments together and aligned their projects and outputs. There were policies and policy frameworks in place to deal with both freshwater and marine aquaculture amongst several of these departments.
Relevant legislation on this issue included the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, the Animal Diseases Act, the Animal Improvement Act, the Marine Living Resources Act and the National Water Act. In his view the sector was well organised into two working groups who were of the view that there should be an alignment of freshwater and marine policies, strategies and legislation. However, there was a need to develop the internal capacity to deal with any issues that did arise.
There were three main types of aqua culture facilities that could be used to develop this industry, which included public diagnostic laboratories, public research laboratories and private laboratories.
Mr K Ramsey, Deputy Director: Animal Production, DAFF, continued that there were a number of projects under way that focussed on the provision of fish for food, or the use of fish to develop an income to buy food. It was the view of the DAFF that aquaculture could contribute to rural livelihoods, particularly through the revival of already existing structures. The Department had five main aims in regard to this area. These were the revitalisation of state facilities, institutional support from provinces, capacity building, community Public / Private Partnership (PPP) programme models and providing assistance to farmers to allow them to penetrate the market.
He said that there were concerns about the candidate species that had been chosen in pursuit of these aims (particularly tilapia), as well as an awareness of the costs involved. Costs included system costs like heating the water so that the fish would breed, and ongoing costs like feeding the fish. Further research from the Department would thus look at other species other than tilapia, such as catfish and carp.
He said that one of the primary aims of the project was the development of a culture of fish consumption, which in the view of the DAFF was a definite obstacle to the introduction of fish as a popular food source. There was also a need to build capacity to process and sell the fish. DAFF believed that the technology and skill would become available through working with strategic partners such as
He said that there were several threats to the South African aquaculture sector, including limited capacities, lack of technical skills and support, high feed, equipment and technology costs, limited government support through veterinary services and disease management, complex resource-based legislation, lack of marketing services and access to finance, and climatic variability and seasonality.
However, he said that there was a demand and there were good natural resources and infrastructure in
The development programmes that the Department was pursuing included the establishment and the revitalisation of already existing State-owned hatcheries, cage-culture pilot studies that would focus on marine species, capacity development programmes for scientists, extension officers, veterinarians, animal health technicians and inspectors, the creation of aquaculture development zones such as Gariep Dam for specific species, and research and development on specific candidate culture species such as carp.
The DAFF had a number of international engagements with
He concluded that there were a few projects which were working well but that these were still in the learning and implementation phase. In his view this was one of the most exciting areas in
Mr D Worth (DA,
Mr Ramsey said that one of the problems was that the dam projects had started well, and the Gariep was getting some large fish. However, as they were fished out they were not adequately replaced, and so the fish that were now present were smaller, leading to the winding down of the industry. The Department was now in the process of considering the dams individually to see how many people used the dams and how many fingerlings were needed to re-stock.
He added that one of the problems with high income fish such as trout was that the infrastructure of hatcheries was expensive. However, the opportunity existed for contract growers with certain species, similar to the poultry industry. A grower of trout would get fingerlings and feed, and would raise the fish for collection when they were ready to release into the dams. This, however, was limited because of the market for trout in
Mr Worth asked why catfish, which existed naturally in many dams, was not being considered as a viable candidate species.
Mr Ramsey replied that the markets were very important. The demand for catfish was specifically for the European catfish. These could be grown in
Mr Ramsey noted that
Mr Hawes said that between 1974 and 1990 other species were introduced in the
Mr Worth asked what type of mussel species the DAFF was using in its projects, and, if they were invasive species, what their impact was on the indigenous species.
Mr Semoli said that the mussel species being used was indeed an invasive species, but in terms of NEMBA it had been exempted because it had established itself in
Mr Worth made a general observation that prawns were very popular in the South African market, but the production of prawns seemed to be low, and asked for more information about this.
Mr Semoli responded that the Mozambican prawn was popular in the South African market, but it was very invasive. In the next few years a new prawn farm would be developed in
Mr Worth asked about abalone farming, and noted that its production had declined. He asked for more information on this.
Mr Semoli replied that the limiting factor on abalone was the issue of the markets, which had been badly affected by the economic recession. The competition from
Mr Worth asked about the West Coast Rock Lobster which had been badly over-fished on the West coast. He asked what effect was of the closure project on the West coast on fish stock.
Mr Semoli replied that there had not been total closure of the West Coast Rock Lobster project, but stocks had gone down. About 30 years ago, catches were mostly in the
Mr G Mokgoro (ANC,
Mr Semoli replied that there were Marine Development Areas where fishing was not allowed, in order to allow species to recover. For example, the West Coast Rock Lobster fishing was seasonal, and only allowed for fishing outside of breeding time. The final resort in cases of over-fishing was the closing of a fishery, such as the abalone example.
Mr Hawes said that the challenges that were faced were linked to climatic changes.
Mr Mokgoro asked what alternatives had been planned for fishermen in the areas where the fish stocks had been depleted.
Mr Semoli replied that the issue was not the depletion of fish, but rather the migration of fish from the West to the
Mr Ramsey suggested that towns that were fishing towns could be used to grow fish inland.
Mr O De Beer (COPE,
Mr Semoli said that the advisory forum currently only involved government departments. However, other stakeholders and investors did have other platforms to interact with government. Workshops were also organised to facilitate this.
Mr De Beer asked about
Mr Semoli admitted that the DAFF was lagging behind in developing the area, and needed to work with other departments like the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Education to ensure that training could take place. He said that in the next couple of months, there would be an injection of funding into the area, because there was a large area of sea space there that was highly under utilised.
Mr De Beer added that in cases like Saldanha, rights holders had to relocate in order to follow the fish, but this resulted in taking the economic mainstream out of the areas that were previously associated with fishing. He said that this left a great deal of infrastructure that was not being used, and resulted in large retrenchments in this sector.
Mr Semoli said that the provision of infrastructure for rights holders was something that the Department needed to look at. He said that the Department had had a discussion about the possibility of setting up a holding facility so that when the fishermen caught the rock lobster they could hold them there until they had enough for the market.
Mr De Beer said that in his view the Department should play a bigger role in providing some infrastructure for the rights holders, rather than playing a policing role.
Mr De Beer asked about the monitoring and evaluation systems present in the fishing sector, and asked whether commitments made in presentations were being monitored on the ground. He said that the Department’s compliance in terms of monitoring and evaluation had not been good in the past.
Mr Semoli said that the Department was currently going through a review process, based on the long term rights in 2006, and was now in the process of looking at all rights received. He noted that he thought that there could be better systems developed and put in place.
Mr De Beer expressed his view that the sector was over-regulated and that although there were fish, many people had no access to catching these fish by legal means, and thus had no alternative other than to poach. He suggested that regulations around fishing be re-evaluated, and that quotas be reconsidered.
Mr Semoli replied that the quotas were redeveloped every year, based on scientific evaluation and reviews, which in turn were based on the stock of certain fish in the sea. The reduction of quotas depended on the availability of fish stocks. If people over-caught the fish, the fishery would just collapse, which would endanger the livelihoods of fishers over the next ten or fifteen years time. He said that a balance should be achieved because there was an obligation to protect resources for future generations. The Department was trying its best to achieve a balance that ensured that the resources were sustainable.
Mr De Beer noted that in the presentation DAFF had said that the sector provided 22 000 work opportunities, but he commented that these were only seasonal jobs, even in companies that exported internationally. In his view this was a method of exploitation in the sector.
Mr Semoli said that it was true that many of the jobs were seasonal, but that this was not true of all of the jobs. He said that many of the jobs involved with hake fishing were permanent. In his view there was a fair balance between permanent and seasonal jobs. He suggested that perhaps the next presentation by the DAFF for the Committee could unpack this issue further.
Mr Hawes said that the Department had sought to engage other industries to try to create jobs. It was looking at sea-fishes being used for bio fuels, but these had to be researched to identify what other resources needed to be introduced in the area that could be linked to job creation.
The Chairperson asked that the presenters convey the comments of the Members to the Department.
The Chairperson noted that the Department had said it would assist farmers to move into the market, and she wanted more detail on how this would happen. She asked for a list of the species that were being farmed.
Mr Semoli said that the Department assisted in terms of marketing, and used its economists to study market trends and feed the information about opportunities back into the industry. A list of the species that were being farmed would be sent to the Committee.
Mr Ramsey added that as far as assisting the farmers was concerned, the main reason for the project had been to perform market research. DAFF was looking at the issue of processing and selling the fish and doing it in certain forms. Local communities could catch, consume, sell and process fish from a community dam. More market research was being done to fill in the gaps, and to ensure that surpluses were not developed.
Mr De Beer said that although research was mentioned as one of the strengths of the DAFF, there was little or no improvement every year.
Mr Ramsey said that the research shortfalls were linked to issues of funding and that the Department had sought out partnerships between departments, and was also involved in joint projects in order to generate funds. There were relationships with overseas partners. He said that the DAFF realised that it was in a difficult economic climate and thus the best action to pursue was development. He said that this was working.
Mr Hawes noted that the DAFF had developed research priorities so that it could spend on key projects rather than trying to stretch the funds over a number of small projects. By the end of October the Department would have agreed on the process of prioritisation of research and would be terminating small projects to accommodate these priorities.
Mr Semoli noted that developing funding for aquaculture had been a slow process and only around 2005 was there a realisation that the strategy needed to be aimed at developing policy. One of the key elements of that policy was research and development. In February this year the DAFF submitted a budget for funding for the next three cycles until 2010. It was hoping that the funding that Government provided would allow the Department to go forward.
Mr Faizol Daniels, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, said that politically, there were two critical issues. Firstly, the budget had been decreasing since 1994, for reasons that were not clear. Secondly, the research was quite scattered with everyone doing parts of research, including State Owned Enterprises and industry, which had meant that the findings were not aligned. He said that he agreed with the Minister of Agriculture that there should be a single committee in place to develop “real research” plans. The Minister was cultivating relationships with academics to address anomalies in research. Studies had shown that there was a direct link between a sectoral increase in the budget for research and development, and job creation in that sector. The results of research improved performance in a sector.
Mr Worth asked whether the projects that were still going on in the various provinces fell under the Department of Agriculture. He asked what sort of provincial support the DAFF was receiving for aquaculture.
Mr Ramsey said that the provincial enthusiasm was really encouraging, particularly in Limpopo and the
The Chairperson asked that DAFF submit the answers in written form to assist the Committee members to brief their constituencies about the projects under way. She thanked the officials for their presentation and their commitment.
Mr Hawes invited Members to make use of the knowledge and research of the Department and looked forward to further participation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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