Fishing rights allocation: progress report by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

03 June 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) briefed the Committee on the progress towards fishing rights allocation. The Roll-out Programme consisted of three phases.

Phase 1 covered the General Rights Allocation Policy, the eight sector policies review, and public consultation and comments. The eight fishing sectors were: KZN Prawn Trawl, Tuna Pole, Hake Handline, Squid, Demersal Shark, Traditional Linefish, White Mussels, and Oysters. Rights for these eight sectors originated in 2005/6 and were due to expire on 31 December 2013. Their profiles changed constantly according to section 21 and 28 actions.

Small-scale/subsistence fisheries were profiled in detail according to province, number of communities, number of fishers and target resources. In total, 137 communities (7333 fishers) were given exemptions in the provinces of KZN, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape and these fishers would be targeted for allocation of fishing rights at the end of the year.

Phase 2 involved the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) Review Process and the Small-Scale Fisheries Implementation Plan.

Phase 3 involved a multi-disciplinary team, Fishing Rights Assessment Panel (FRAP), to record, capture, evaluate and advise on outcome of the applications and appeals received from the Fishing Rights Verification Team (FRVT).

The milestones toward fishing rights allocation were (dates have been amended):
▪ Review of general and sector policies: public consultation 10-27 May 2013.
▪Comment due date (with extension) 14 June 2013
▪Gazette final general policy and sector-specific policies 28 June 2013
▪Appointment of service providers 1 July 2013
▪Application forms simplified 14 June 2013 (translated into four languages)
▪Agreement on level of application fee if any (CFO & Treasury): possible exemption for small-scale fisheries
▪Call for applications 1 July 2013
▪MLRA Amendments approved 30 September 2013
▪Closing date for applications 30 September 2013
▪Verification and assessment proceed 1 October to 30 November 2013.

Cross-cutting policy considerations and challenges were identified as:Duration of Fishing Rights, Form of Right Holder ( Individual vs Communal/ Collective), Transformation ( Specific Targets), Broadening participation (New Entrants), Economic viability of rights (Basket of Species), MLRA Review and consolidation, Value Chain (beneficiation), Support Programs ( Vessels, Finance, Equipment, Training and Human Capital), Right Transfers (Section 21), Incorporation of the Small-Scale Fishing Sector , Closure of collapsed fisheries , Limited Research on current and new fisheries due to funding, Socio-economic Research, Aquaculture as instrument to compliment wild capture fisheries.

Representatives of fishing communities present at the meeting came from Hout Bay, Hermanus, Mitchells Plain, Langa and Atlantis.

Members asked what programmes were in place for those who had lost their rights due to species loss, or to the ban on seal harvesting, or for those who would not receive rights; if exempt fishing communities were included in the upcoming allocation process; what programmes were in place to achieve optimal beneficiation; and what the minimum requirements were for applicants to be awarded fishing rights. Members asked if DAFF had a help desk or ombudsman to assist aggrieved parties; why funds had been ring-fenced for youth; and why applicants should not use a lawyer. Members were concerned that the process for allocation of rights was in fast-track mode and that DAFF did not have the capacity to cope with applications and award the allocations. Finally, members asked if foreign fishers could be allocated fishing rights on South African waters; how DAFF responded to poaching; and what was in place to prevent fronting.
 

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
Mr Desmond Stevens, DAFF Acting DDG: Resource Management, presented the profile of the eight fishing sectors: KZN Prawn Trawl, Tuna Pole, Hake Handline, Squid, Demersal Shark, Traditional Linefish, White Mussels, and Oysters which had fishing rights since 2006. Rights profiles changed constantly over time, in terms of Section 21 and 28 actions and they were due to expire on 31 December 2013. Details were given on the number of applicants, current TAC (total allowable catch)/TAE (total allowable effort), number of rights granted and transformation profile.

The Fishing Rights Allocation Roll-out Programme consisted of Phase 1 which involved General Rights Allocation Policy, the eight sector-specific policies review and public consultation and comments were due 10 May 2013. (email address: fishingrights@daff.gov.za). Small-scale/subsistence fisheries were profiled according to province, number of communities, number of fishers and target resources. In total 137 communities (7333 fishers) were given exemptions in the provinces of KZN, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape and these fishers would be targeted for allocation of fishing rights at the end of the year. In South Africa, there were 36 000 recreational fishing permits.

Phase 2 involved the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) Review Process and the Small-Scale Fisheries Implementation Plan. Professor Olivier at the University of Pretoria had assisted with the drafting of the legal framework for the allocation of rights. The aim was not to change the whole Act but to focus on amendments to the legal framework to provide for allocation of rights to small-scale fisheries. Due date for comments had been extended until 14 June 2013.

Phase 3: The Fishing Rights Assessment Panel (FRAP) consisted of a multi-disciplinary team to record, capture, evaluate and advise on outcome of the applications and appeals received from the Fishing Rights Verification Team (FRVT). FRAP would also liaise with the DDG and other authorized persons during the allocations and appeals process. FRVT ensured analysis and security of information through forensic checks, cross-referencing, relationship mapping between applicants, rights holders, individuals and/or companies to eliminate fronting and verification of profiles. FRVT also assisted with complaints relating to the allocation process.

The milestones toward fishing rights allocation were (dates have been amended):
▪ Review of general and sector policies: public consultation 10-27 May 2013.
▪ Comment due date (with extension) 14 June 2013
▪ Gazette final general policy and sector-specific policies 28 June 2013
▪ Appointment of service providers 1 July 2013
▪ Application forms simplified 14 June 2013 (translated into four languages)
▪ Agreement on level of application fee if any (CFO & Treasury): possible exemption for small-scale fisheries
▪ Call for applications 1 July 2013
▪ MLRA Amendments approved 30 September 2013
▪ Closing date for applications 30 September 2013
▪ Verification and assessment proceed 1 October to 30 November 2013.

Cross-cutting policy considerations and challenges were listed as:
▪ Duration of Fishing Rights
▪ Form of Right Holder ( Individual vs Communal/ Collective)
▪ Transformation (Specific Targets)
▪ Broadening participation (New Entrants)
▪ Economic viability of rights (Basket of Species)
▪ MLRA Review and consolidation
▪ Value Chain (beneficiation)
▪ Support Programs ( Vessels, Finance, Equipment, Training and Human Capital)
▪ Right Transfers (Section 21)
▪ Incorporation of the Small-Scale Fishing Sector
▪ Closure of collapsed fisheries
▪ Limited Research on current and new fisheries due to funding
▪ Socio-economic Research
▪ Aquaculture as instrument to complement wild capture fisheries.
 
Discussion
Ms N Phaliso (ANC) asked what plan DAFF had in place to assist the collapsed seal industry. She understood that the way in which the seals were killed was the problem.
Mr Stevens replied that it was illegal to harvest seals under the Seal and Sea Bird Act of the Department of Environmental Affairs and that seals were not included in the MLRA. South Africa was also a signatory to international agreements on seal harvesting legislation.

Ms Phaliso asked what programme would assist those who had lost their rights and jobs due to species loss, but were sitting with vessels and capacity.

Mr Stevens replied that since 2009, a number of people had approached DAFF explaining that they had lost rights for various reasons. Many who received rights did not utilise them. On 31 December 2013, the rights period expired and no one in the eight sectors would have rights. From 1 July, all entrants had to apply, whether they were current rights holders, or those who had lost out in 2005. All would apply with a clean slate. DAFF wanted to finalise the small-scale fishing implementation plan by 31 June 2013.

Ms Phaliso complimented DAFF on the support programme to help address vulnerable sectors to eliminate the corrupt middle man who had historically exploited the disadvantaged fishing communities. She looked forward to the committee having the opportunity to review the Bill which was 50 years overdue.

Mr S Abram (ANC) asked if DAFF programmes such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), Ilima-Letsema, and Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) which assisted new farmers, were in place to assist fishing with facilities to achieve optimal beneficiation.

The Chairperson suggested that the support programme be simplified and made economically viable, with clear expectations on what was expected of co-ops and how the communities would organize themselves.

Mr Stevens replied that the draft report on the support programme would be presented to the Committee in two weeks’ time. It would require inter-governmental support, particularly Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and a number of possibilities were based on the existing DAFF programmes and the aquaculture agreement. Programmes would support provision of vessels, training, establishment of co-ops and the incentivized programmes.

Mr Ceba Mtoba, DAFF Chief Director: Monitoring, Control and Surveillance, confirmed Mr Stevens' reply and reiterated that DAFF and DTI were cooperating to implement a comprehensive support programme that spoke to the fishing sector.

Mr Abram asked that DAFF, for the purpose of the people present, brief the Committee on the current programmes that existed and how the fishing industry could access them. He also asked if the discussions could be translated into the language of the people present.

Mr Stevens replied that there was no special financial support service for small-scale fisheries in DAFF. The only legal instrument for the 7 333 fishers who did not have rights, was the exemption permit. In 2009/10 DAFF applied for a special dispensation of financial support to the abalone fishing sector. The type of comprehensive support required for small-scale fishing had been identified and budgeted for and the final report from the experts assisting DAFF was expected on 28 June 2013. Thereafter DAFF would go back to fishing communities with the draft support programme and ask if they agreed with the support with regard to boats, equipment, training, and access to markets. DAFF was negotiating internally with CASP, Ilima-Letsema and AgriBEE fund to redirect some of their support services to fisheries.

Mr Abram asked if DAFF had a help desk or ombudsman to assist aggrieved parties. The best legislation did not mean that the people on the ground were supported and happy.

Mr Stevens replied that the Telkom share-call number for assistance was 086000fish/ 086003474. Ms Sue Middleton had set up a rapid-response unit consisting of local people who had experience in the operational aspects of the fishing industry and this would be operational by the end of the month.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) asked how the Committee could assist when it was given statistics that were eight years old. He believed that the snapshot of the profile of sectors was out-dated.

Mr Stevens replied that the statistics were current and included a slide which showed the past and current status of rights.

Mr Van Dalen commented that too much regulation by government meant too much power and that the amendments on the small-scale fisheries’ rights allocation needed to be simplified. The fishermen needed to understand what was being legislated and community needs based on the past eight years of rights allocation needed to be unpacked.

Mr Van Dalen asked for clarification on ring-fencing of funds for youth structures and empowerment and benefits for the youth and women.

Mr Stevens replied that this was not a political move but a genuine one. Fishermen were aging and it was necessary to encourage youth to enter the fishing industry to sustain the industry. Policies in the past had made it difficult for women and youth to enter the industry.

Mr Van Dalen said that there was only so much fish stock and yet there were many categories of applications available for fishing rights. He commented that if the real fisherman was overlooked in the rush to pass the amendments by the end of the year, the real fisherman would lose out and the MLRA would have unintended consequences.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that she was concerned that the process for allocation of rights was in fast-track mode.

Mr Stevens replied that the small-scale fishing rights had been in the making for seven years. They had been begging and marching for a legal basis for rights, not exemptions. It may appear that DAFF was rushing, but it was adhering to good-faith policy with stakeholders with the focus on providing and implementing legal policy for allocation of rights. The small-scale fisher’s patience must be rewarded.

Ms Steyn asked if DAFF knew the number of allocations per species and per area.

Mr Stevens replied that by mid-July, the research team would provide the information on how many rights were available on each sector. The information was updated each season. In the following week, DAFF would present on the status of the allocation of resources for each sector.

Ms Steyn asked if DAFF would have the capacity to cope with applications and award the allocations. Her experience in the Department of Land Reform was that the Department did not have capacity to cope with the applications.

Mr Abram asked what the content of the feedback had been from the 3 600 to 4 000 people who attended the consultation process.

Mr Stevens replied that the call for comments deadline had been extended until the 14 June 2013. So far 116 comments had been received. The email address had been advertised and there were two dedicated staff members who consolidated the comments and posted them on the website daily. All meetings and comments in mother tongue had been recorded.

She also asked how DAFF would cope with those not given rights, such as poachers and for clarification on whether the Beneficiation Process would assist those who were not given rights but where fishing was their only source of income.

Mr Stevens replied that poaching was a sore point as crime syndicates had become the main destroyers of marine resources. Illegal fishing could not be confronted by DAFF alone. The Integrated Fishing Securities Strategy addressed coastal poverty and access to education in partnership with the Department of Social Development.

Mr Abram cautioned DAFF that the possible  ‘no fee’ for applications would create an expectation.

Mr Stevens replied that it was DAFF’s intent to make the fee affordable at R240. It was negotiating with Treasury for a ‘no fee’ for small-scale fishers. It was not a promise. It depended on Treasury.

Mr Abram asked for clarification on the terms for not using a lawyer but rather to use a DAFF official to assist with filling in the application form. He felt that individuals had the constitutional right to decide for themselves whether or not they would use a lawyer during their application. Historically, officials in the past had not always been dependable or maintained confidentiality. There was a fine line between empowering the small-scale fisher and large-scale loss of jobs due to corruption.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF intended to emphasize that there was no need to pay R900 to a consultant for renewing a permit or filling out an ordinary permit when DAFF could offer that same support. However, it was their constitutional right to use a consultant if they so wished.

Mr Abram asked how the FRVT would be able to police “collation and summarisation of all tip-offs received”. The team would need to be suitably qualified and have the knowledge to perform such work.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF did not determine who received rights without correct legal checks and balances in place for elimination of corruption both by officials and companies that apply. The FRVT ensured a fair process. A tip-off would only be one verification process of a multitude of checks and would not be the sole determinant for disqualification of an application.

The Chairperson requested that the applications be presented in languages in addition to English, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked if foreign fishers could be allocated rights to fish on South African waters.

Mr Stevens replied that foreign vessels were not allowed to fish in South African waters. However, there were long-term joint ventures between South Africa and foreign countries and those vessels were flagged as South African fishing vessels.

Mr M Cele (ANC) asked if the 3600 attendees attended on one day or if that was the number of attendees at all the centres.

Mr Stevens replied that that was the number of attendees at the 14 sector specific consultations.

Mr Cele and Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) asked how the public consultations and comments were advertised.

Mr Stevens replied they were advertised through a combination of media and direct invitations, posters in the coastal communications. The best way of communication was found to be through the local community radio stations and newspapers.

Mr Cele asked what the minimum requirements were for applicants to be awarded fishing rights by FRAP.

Mr Stevens replied that one of the minimum requirements was to identify the genuine fisherman who had lived at the coast and created a livelihood from fishing. Definition of a fishing community was defined in the small-scale fishing policy although displacement of fishing communities by the old Group Areas Act was not up for discussion in the current meeting. Applicants had to apply with adherence to all legislative frameworks, such as tax clearance certificates and within the format of individual, co-op, Pty Ltd, or cc. DAFF was in the process of developing the basis for assessment on who would be deserving of rights.

Ms Steyn asked how the 137 communities (7 333 exemptions) that had received exemption would be included in the current process toward allocation of rights.

Mr Stevens replied that the 7 333 exemptions would be the fundamental beneficiaries of small-scale fishing policy implementation, with the 4 400 in the Eastern Cape being the target focus.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) asked what was in place to prevent fronting.

Mr Stevens replied that fronting was dealt with pre-emptively. Amongst other mechanisms, to prevent a non-qualifying person from getting fishing rights: one could not apply on someone else’s behalf, the roles and relationship between applicant and right-holder was verified and in terms of section 21, one could not sell one’s rights without having to deal with the consequences.

The Chairperson said that unfortunately the big players continued to operate since 1994 but it was encouraging that policy stipulated that 70% of those benefitting from rights allocation should live in the coastal communities. In a nutshell, it appeared that DAFF was on track to address the issues raised by the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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