Small Scale Fisheries & Abalone Experimental Fisheries: report back by Department

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

07 February 2011
Chairperson: Mr M. Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries briefed the Committee on Small Scale Fisheries Progress, Abalone Experimental Fisheries, and on the Reopening of Abalone Fisheries.
The Committee urged the Department to make public comments available to the members for consideration in future decisions on policy. Members also advised the Department to take into account the support needed such as processing facilities and transport, that accompanied rights given to small scale fishers. Concerns were expressed about the viability of the policy in creating livelihoods for the communities involved. The community based rights approach was also a subject of contention with Members querying the Department if this was the right approach to take. Members were concerned about giving rights to the community to self manage and self police itself, saying that such roles seemed to present conflict of interest. There was also concern over how offenders would be prosecuted especially if it was the community. The Co-management approach was also debated with Members expressing concern about the threat to the role of government should the community take responsibility for the resource. The Members reminded the Department that the state still played an important role in controlling the use of the resource to ensure sustainability and that role needed to be maintained.

The Department reported that the Abalone Experiment in the East of False Bay and the Eastern Cape would be underway by April and May 2011 for the respective areas. Members expressed concerns about the experiment and were worried about people being used as guinea pigs. The biggest concerns were about monitoring and law enforcement with the Department being asked to provide the Committee with a law enforcement plan on how security should be rolled out. It also requesyed the provision of an alternative plan to the three year experiment which the Committee found unacceptable.

In its Progress Report on Reopening the Abalone Fisheries, the Department reported that administrative systems had been put in place to issue permits and exemptions. Law enforcement was strictly applied to ensure compliance by rights holders. The Committee were concerned about the low level of cases of non compliance and also that no poaching statistics were presented. The roles of the universities in the process were questioned, especially in transforming the industry. The Department was requested to fast track transformation in terms of recruiting previously disadvantaged persons.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
Mr M Johnson announced apologies from the Minister who was on Parliament business in the Northern Cape and the Deputy Minister whose brother had just passed on. The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the agenda was on the development of fisheries and an investigation of the Fisheries branch. He recalled that the last meeting had dealt with a briefing from the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries (DAFF) on its performance review and also with the matter of medium and long term issued permits.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Briefing
Mr Richard Seleke, Acting Deputy Director General: Fisheries of the Department introduced his team to the Committee and indicated that his presentation would focus on developing small scale fisheries policy and the abalone experimental fisheries.

Mr Seleke reminded the Committee that the earlier version of the policy had been presented and that the current presentation would touch mainly on the progress since the previous engagement. It would look into which areas the policy would cover, how it would cater for the historically disadvantaged, and issues around implementation and approval dates. He reported that the Draft Policy was completed in August 2010 by the task team and public consultations were held in October and November 2010 in which over 100 public meetings were held around the coastal areas. A lot of public comments were received from this process and were in the process of being consolidated. He emphasised the importance of research and assessment of legalities of implementation. The Department was working on an implementation model taking into consideration the budget and resources required. He reported that the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) process started on 4 November 2010 and a task team had been formed and met on 4 February for the first time. The final policy and implementation plan would be consulted with NEDLAC and presented to Cabinet. The implementation date would depend on the NEDLAC process and the Department hoped it would be completed by May 2011. Mr Seleke added that negotiations with commercial right holders would be conducted to get their support. The policy would be introduced in June 2011 in a few pilot areas to test implementation and structures.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) raised her concerns about the uncertainty of the process with NEDLAC but remarked that this was a good move for the Department. The Department indicated that the process was an interactive and consultative one which hinged on the consensus which was a lengthy process at times. The time had been set for May but risk was foreseen due to the complicated environment the process had to go through.

Mr N Du Toit (DA) requested the Department to let the Committee know of the comments from the public  in order for the Committee to consider public insights in making any decisions. He also asked for an implementation model as a good policy could not be put to work if it was not based on model or an example based on various sizes or an artist’s impression.

Mr Seleke replied that the public comments were handed over to a third party for processing and consolidation. The process was expected to be completed around February 20, 2011. On the implementation model, the Department expressed that they had a sense of the plan and had sketches and process flows but were not yet ready to be presented to the Committee.

Mr S Abram (ANC) remarked that unless the small scale fishermen were supported with the necessary tools to make a living, the policy would not succeed. He urged the Department to maintain the scientific requirements but to find the balance in order to create a sector which was viable where small scale fisheries could participate in the economy. He also advised the Department to look at the details  and the implications of the policy such as, how much a vessel or a boat would cost.

The Department responded that employment was a primary benefit of the programme which was also seen as a poverty alleviation mechanism.

Mr L Bosman (DA) asked how much research had been done to see if the community based approach of rights allocation was the solution to the problem. He was concerned about infighting in the community and the potential burden on the community. He also asked if individual rights were protected as there was a lot of emphasis on human rights. Mr Bosman also raised concern about the co-management approach: if the Department had enough details on how this would play out as well as control over the resource to prevent depletion. He was not sure co-management would be the right approach.

The DAFF spokesperson acknowledged that individual rights versus community rights was coming through as an important issue. He explained that according to their database, there would be 5000 likely beneficiaries of the programme. Based on such a figure, the Department had chosen to go the individual rights route and would work to ensure it would be economically viable.

In clarifying the co-management approach, Mr Seleke emphasised that community ownership of the resource pointed strongly to their protection of it and that education was the key to this aspect. The Department was sure the co-management approach would work.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked how the policy addressed the issue of individual payments.

The Chairperson asked the Committee if anyone had attended the public hearings and indicated that in Port Elizabeth, the Department officials came in and left before anyone knew about them and emphasised the point raised by Mr Du Toit about following up on public comments. He also raised a question about the exit point of any support programme: when would those being supported exit the intervention and move on to the next level?

The Department indicated that aquaculture, recreational activities, shark cage diving, were some of the considerations for next level programmes for small scale fisheries but the Department for the time being just wanted to focus on getting the policy processed and the implementation outcome would determine further steps.

Ms N Twala (ANC) expressed her concerns about building capacity in the communities and the fact that it was based on extension services. History had proven the failure of extension services in agriculture. Also, extension officers usually stayed in urban areas, therefore, how would such training be carried out.

The Department informed the Committee about a study in the pipeline aimed at ascertaining the age of the beneficiaries in the sector as the outcome would determine the strategies needed to be put in place. The children from the fishing community would be the preferred beneficiaries of the education programme in order to assist them to enter into programmes such as aquaculture which required a certain level of education.

Mr Du Toit was distressed about the repetition of issues raised in the progress report such as the community based allocation rendering discussions a useless exercise due to the repetition. He inquired about the legal opinion on group and individual rights and about the practicalities of the co-management approach and again requested a model on which such a concept would be based. He asked about the meaning of preferential access and what the guiding principles were. He queried how disaster at sea would be defined, and asked about the criteria for qualifications for a licence such as the age limits, minimum labour standards, criteria for a person to belong to a small scale fisheries community, subsidy scheme and who should pay, marine conservation officers and what qualifications they needed. Such issues needed to be clarified by the Department.

The Department indicated that it had a fair idea of what was required for the subsidization scheme and were also guided by the primary qualification or entrance of the long terms rights allocation.

Mr Seleke thanked the Committee for the informative interaction which provided insights to help the Department deal with the issues in a pragmatic and realistic way. He indicated that his response would provide feedback to the issues raised by the Committee and did not mean to be defensive.

Mr F Daniels, DAFF Head of Cabinet, Parliament and Stakeholder Management informed the Committee that the Port Elizabeth area had requested a further set of engagements. The Department had identified areas not reached by previous consultations. He explained that disaster relief referred to unforeseeable issues fishermen faced when going out to sea.

Dr Johann Augustyn, DAFF Chief Director, Marine Resource Management, clarified the issue of rights, indicating that it was not forced onto the Department but something the task team came up with. People were free to continue to use their individual permits but in future, allocations would be dealt with based on what the industry decided.

The Chairperson raised the need for value chain benefit even for big players in the beneficiation of natural resources. The export of SA fish was creating very big employment opportunities for countries receiving them and the Department needed to look into similar opportunities.

Mr Du Toit asked the Department about what would make or break the policy and what the Achilles heel of the policy could be. A scarce resource was at stake and there was a need to manage it but he was concerned about tying communal rights to communal responsibility and emphasising such as a critical factor. He said that if the community took responsibility for the resource, then it could equal poaching. He referred to a case in a small town where the community colluded with police in poaching and it was very difficult to break the syndicates operating there, and no one held any rights but did everything for self gain. If the community was given rights to the resource and the rights to self manage it, could the Department really believe that in the principle that the community would prevent the destruction of the resource. He further probed if embarking on communal rights, responsibility, and self policing, was not over stepping the line. Further how could the community be prosecuted if they did overstep the line? How would someone who took out too much be prosecuted? How would the process be policed? If such problems could be solved, then the policy could be adopted.

Ms Twala requested clarity on rights, if the Department’s responsibility would be shifted if responsibility was given to the community? She also asked the Department for the name of the outside entity dealing with the consolidation of public comments. The Department indicated that the company doing the consolidation was INACT.

Mr N Cebekhulu (ANC) asked the Department about the effects of competition with foreign vessels in the distribution of resources.

Mr Bosman asked about the income potential and how it would be divided  amongst the community. He noted a study that was done in KZN where 40% of fishermen earned less than R400/month. He mentioned that there were no storage facilities, and no consideration was given to how the goods would be taken to the market and the benefits accrued to the fishermen. He asked the Department if there were new studies done in this area.

Ms Pilusa-Moloane once again expressed the need for the Committee to see the public comments in light of the issues raised in one of the reports that South African United Fishing Front said that the policy was likely to fail as it did not offer individual protection. She asked the Department what it intended to do about this.

Mr Seleke assured the Committee that the role of the government as regulator would not be lost as the government would continue to run surveys to ascertain the levels of stock. Policing and monitoring by the government would also continue. The role of the community would be to watch one another. The Department was sure that community ownership was very important and would help the process and educate the community about the resource and the importance of their role in safeguarding and protecting something that belonged to them to ensure the sustainability of the resource. The Department further noted that some of the rights held by individuals would come to an end in 2013 and it was important to know what to do after then with such rights.

Dr Augustyn explained that the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extended 200 nautical miles (about 300km) off the coast and that all rights or any foreign fishing vessels have been phased out since 1994. He assured the Committee that there was an effective patrol that monitored SA waters and that the problem was well managed.

Mr Du Toit brought up the successful co-op system in the wine industry and suggested that a similar one could work in fisheries. He asked the Department if it was giving individual rights in order to get past the problem of to whom to give rights.

The Department assured the Committee that they were not instituting individual rights to run away from the problem of to whom to give rights. Individuals were more susceptible to exploitation. Also the community preferred group rights over and above individual rights.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) requested clarity on how the cooperatives would work and how much percentage each individual would get.

The Department indicated this would be revealed in the implementation plan.


When the meeting reconvened, the discussion focussed on outstanding issues from the previous meeting.

Mr Seleke provided an update on the progress of the decentralisation process, that permit offices and posts had been identified and the implementation date would be 1 March 2011. The Department was looking at two major stations in Port Elizabeth and Saldahna providing multiple services, boosted by the fisheries community development workers directly linked to the community. In terms of the future, the Department would add expansion of services outside the two specific areas after the current financial year. The process was hampered by limited conditions of employment in terms of filling the positions identified. All matters raised in the last meeting had been dealt with in a report awaiting sign off for the Deputy Director General’s Office and would be given to the Committee thereafter.

The Chairperson asked the Department if the office in Saldahna was for Fisheries only.

Mr Seleke indicated that due to cost constraints they had to make use of the existing facilities first.

Abalone Experimental Fisheries: Eastern Cape and East of False Bay: briefing
Mr Sekele reminded the Committee that this was still an experiment to assess the availability of the abalone resource in the chosen areas and how far it could be available and developed. The same fisheries principles were utilized in the experiment.

Dr Kim Prochaska, Acting Chief Director: Fisheries Research, explained that the Department had developed designs for experimentation in terms of the science and what information needed to be collected to answer the questions the Department had. She elaborated on the methodology of the Department which included consultations and identification of participants and choosing the areas for the study, the distribution of abalone in terms of spatial availability and its abundance, were considered in drawing up the plans for the experiment. The purpose of the experiment was to determine the viability of sustainable commercial use for the resource. Permanent fishing would only be considered in the zone if productivity was high enough or if the speed at which the resource replaced itself was fast enough.

In False Bay, a number of options were considered and the most favoured one was to allocate 12 tonnes of abalone on an experimental basis to the rights holders. The existing processing and marketing facilities would be used. In the Eastern Cape, consultations were held with communities in seven areas, each of which would be allocated 1.5 tonnes on an experimental basis. The recommendations were based on research done by Rhodes University which took into account abalone estimates of the time. In line with small scale policies, a legal representative would need to be appointed to represent the fishers. Catches would initially have to be made by licensed divers for them until divers could be trained. Holding facilities would have to be provided for the catches from the areas. It was also recommended that catches be initially processed and exported by a single service provider appointed by DAFF. After three years, the scientific information would be evaluated to determine if it could be viable - before a permanent allocation would be made. Rollout was expected for April 2011 for False Bay and May 2011 for Eastern Cape.

Mr Du Toit raised the concern of a deficiency in law enforcement in abalone fishing and asked the Department if it should not ensure there was enough monitoring and law enforcement on the ground before implementing the policy.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked if the communities in False Bay were also involved in the experiment.

Mr L Gaehler (UDM) asked if there was a place where divers could be trained.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked the Department if the communities were aware that they had to train their own people to do the jobs or if it was only mentioned in the papers.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) was welcomed to the meeting as she only joined then. She charged the Department to bring back the rejected proposal made to Marine Coastal Management (MCM) as the Committee did not get all the answers in the meetings. She was quite frustrated as the consultation processes did not reach the real fishing people but only reached the capitalists. She said that the Department shifting its responsibilities to the community was wrong as it would cause anarchy. She alleged that Cabinet was receiving misleading advice from the Department. In small scale fishing, there were too many documents to deal with and she would rather talk about practical situations to change the lives of the people.

Mr Seleke thanked the Committee once again for the frank comments and reminded the Committee of the limited capacity in the branch which was why in the previous presentation, the Department recommended that the best way to deal with security was to devolve it to the provinces. The Department has devised a strategy for security which looked at synergising with other security related agencies such as the ones at the borders, intelligence, police. There was also the intention to develop the military veterans programme as there was hope that visibility of patrolling would act as a deterrent.

Dr Proschazka, explained that a training facility for divers would be considered. The communities needed to be sensitised about the needs for training bearing in mind it was a Department of Labour requirement. The communities in the False Bay areas constituted rights holders and there were no communities along the area where the experiment was conducted. She elaborated on the time frame for the experiment, explaining that three years was the shortest time possible in order to get a meaningful response.

Mr Seleke said that in the last meeting, the Department indicated it would do an independent study, but realised that one had been done already by Rhodes University and the likelihood of the Department coming up with different results would be non existent hence the decision to go the route of communities. In relation to the proposal to MCM, and the provincial summit, the Department did not reject the proposal but was trying to be practical by having a National Summit instead of a provincial one to finalise policy where fishermen could be drawn in from different areas to participate.

The Chairperson pointed out to the Committee that the experimental exercise on abalone talked to the ‘reopening’ of the abalone fisheries.

Reopening of Abalone Fisheries – Progress Report to Cabinet
Mr Seleke indicated that the presentation provided progress to Cabinet on how far the Department had met the conditions. He reported that law enforcement provisions would be strictly applied to ensure compliance. There were seven cases of non compliance being investigated against rights holders. A Section 28 committee had been set up to deal with non compliance. The Department was also keen to implement the Integrated Fisheries Security Strategy (IFSS) to ensure compliance and effective prosecution of those who contravened the provisions of Marline Living Resources Act (MLRA). The details of the IFSS would be given to Cabinet in a memo.

He reported also on the Integrated National Fisheries Development Plan which was implementing aquaculture projects to the value of R120 million. In terms of the Abalone Recovery Strategy, the Abalone Scientific Working Group was conducting annual assessments to monitor the level of the stock which would be followed by the modelling phase to be finalised in August 2011. Such an exercise would be repeated every year to determine the rate of recovery of the stock to determine whether the rebuilding target of 40% over a period of 15 years was being achieved. Mr Seleke reported that social relief payments totalling R16 million had been disbursed to affected communities to alleviate negative the socio economic impact of the suspension of the abalone fisheries. In the management of stakeholders, Mr Seleke explained that a special meeting had been held for stakeholders explaining conditions relating to the re-opening of abalone fisheries with special emphasis on law enforcement provisions.

Ms Phaliso asked Mr Seleke who would be invited to the National Summit.

The Chairperson advised the Department that stakeholder engagement needed to be people friendly, needed to talk about cooperation and find incentives for people to cooperate.

Ms Nyalungu asked the Department why they continued to rely on university scientists who were really not doing anything for the communities.

Mr Du Toit expressed surprise at such a low level of non compliance at “seven” and indicated that there must be at least seven hundred or more. He also pointed out that the report did not indicate how many poachers had been caught and this pointed to law enforcement not working.

Mr Gaehler asked if only the SA Police was used for patrol, if there were no other marine bodies who could help.

Mr Seleke indicated that the Committee comments were fair but urged the members to remember that during the change of administration, there was a shift in policy from the environment to economic utilisation of the resource and this opened up the resource to exploitation. He urged the Committee to understand the need to tackle security matters in other areas than physical deterrents. In order to be able to sell the resource, one needed to be a rights holder and therefore the need for strict paper work. The systematic process would not work overnight. There were people patrolling but there were not enough, hence the devolution of functions to the provincial level. Records did show some improvement and the quantity of “seven” seemed small but the impact was massive. The Department defended their stand with the university by saying that these were long term partnerships and agreements. The scientists working with the Department played an important role in mentoring the young people working under their supervision and emphasised that expertise was very limited.

The Chairperson urged the Department not to use the people as guinea pigs and that the agenda of the scientists and the researchers were also not known.

Mr Du Toit expressed dissatisfaction with how the Department dealt with law enforcement and proposed that the Committee take a decision for the Department to come up with a plan on how to address law enforcement for the process and a budget as well.

Ms Phaliso referred to the professional programme and asked the Department if they were recruiting from the programme. She also asked about the progress of transformation in the sector.

Mr Seleke responded that transformation had taken place in the branch and that previously disadvantaged students had been sent to Norway to study scarce skills in the area. He explained that the universities they were working with were also pushing in the direction of recruiting more students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Ms Phaliso inquired about the social relief programme.

Mr ‘Denis’ from the Department explained that the interim relief programme had been rolled out and it focussed on those in fisheries but the Department soon faced the problem of having to help not only those in fisheries but the community as a whole. The community in the end had to come up with beneficiaries. The Department had identified the need for alternative livelihoods in order to sustain the communities and once the policy was in place, then some activities could be implemented.

Mr Seleke indicated that the interim relief was really in a form of a package and not cash based. The cash based assistance was given to the rights holders as starting capital for their abalone business. What the Department needed was a fisherman’s register. He assured the Committee that the Department would take on all their comments and would try to improve.

The Chairperson concluded that the Department had two weeks to come up with 1. The Security Plan and 2. Alternative Plan for the three year experiment which was not acceptable.

The Chairperson informed the Committee about the following week’s meeting where the Department of Environment and Water Affairs would be brief the Committee on norms and standards. There would be a briefing by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform also. The following week, the Committee had an invitation from Agri SA for the 21-22 February which had been approved and there was also the planned oversight visit to the monitoring vessel. The Committee needed to make a decision on the two matters.

The Meeting was adjourned.

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