Marine fisheries resources & vessel management: Departmental briefing

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) briefed the Portfolio Committee on the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Proclamation of 31 May 2013. It was clarified that fisheries functions were transferred from Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to DAFF, by way of Proclamation 44 of I July 2009. Cabinet had suggested that the Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries should have the powers to administer the declaration and management of activities within the Marine Protected Areas. However, a legal opinion suggested that transfer of the functions under section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act was problematic, and after a series of meetings to discuss the issue, the Proclamation of 31 May 2013 was signed by the President, to clarify that the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries would retained powers and functions around fisheries management in those MPAs where fishing was allowed (which were set out), including permitting, fishing rights allocations, fisheries-related research, and regulating and enforcing types of fishing. Members asked if the redefining of mandates between DEA and DAFF had affected the perlemoen (abalone) quotas in the Eastern Cape, but it was clarified that no such quotas were in existence, and asked how DAFF was dealing with problems of poaching. The DAFF promised to provide a detailed document on the experimental abalone fishing sites, with a list of beneficiaries, and it was suggested that a joint meeting with DEA was needed on seal harvesting.

The second presentation updated the Committee on management of the DAFF fleet of fisheries protection and research vessels, which had now been transferred from the South African Navy to DAFF. For an interim period, pending finalisation of a tender, Damen Shipyards were contracted for repairs and maintenance and Nautic SA (Pty) Ltd was contracted for six months to run vessel operations of the fleet. A Vessel Technical Expert had been engaged to assist with development of tender specifications and advice, and appointment of the new management agency for the fleet was expected in August or September. The tenders were due to be submitted by 2 August. A schedule of work being done and state of readiness for each vessel was given. Members asked for further clarity on what exactly was meant by percentage of readiness, said that the inability to give exact dates was of concern, asked for an explanation of the Department of Trade and Industry involvement in the handing-over of fishing boats to communities, and asked for the figures for the contracts signed with the two consultants and the Navy. They also wanted to know the content of the contracts and particularly whether transfer of skills was a component and if the contractors were BEE compliant. They asked what specific arrangements had been made to counteract poaching but although a general answer was given, the specifics could not be disclosed in open meeting. Members also asked for an update on the investigations into vessel tenders to Smit Amandla Marine and Sekunjalo, asked if any companies now tendering were linked to them, and heard that the matters were still under investigation. They asked why the tender was advertised internationally, since South African jobs must be created, and asked for clarification on the charter of the Compass Challenger for the sardine and anchovy survey, and the process, cost and possible local building of a vessel to replace the Africana. They also questioned where and how many offices would be in place for the rights application processes, and called for an update on the Fishing Charter.

The final presentation summarised management of key resources of Cape hake, abalone, West Coast rock lobster and linefish, as well as the results of attempts to replenish stock through restricting catch. Members asked when rock lobster fishers could apply for rights, where the extra quota for small-scale fishing would come, given that resources were already under severe threat, and commented that expectations had been raised and communities needed to be told of the precise position. They asked where the aquaculture projects were located, sought clarity on the permits to extract mussels, how DAFF collaborated with DEA on marine protected areas for poaching and fishing licences, asked questions about management in specific areas, and how fishing rights could be managed for the benefit of communities. They sought more information on control of over-fishing, the effect of marine mining on rock lobster, the progress of the Abalone Pilot Project in Hondeklipbaai. They heard that the Department had requested an extension for the handing in of the final Marine Living Resources Act Amendment Bill, as the comment period closed on 14 June, and that it was hoping this would be processed as priority legislation.
 

Meeting report

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Proclamation of 31 May 2013: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report
Mr Desmond Stevens, Acting Deputy Director General: Resource Management, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that he firstly wished to clear a misunderstanding relating to the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Proclamation of 31 May 2013.

He noted that, in order to separate the mandates for fisheries management, and for marine environmental management, both of which resided in the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 (MLRA), the fisheries functions were transferred from Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), by way of Proclamation 44 of 1 July 2009 on transfer of aquaculture, and Proclamation 1 of 10 February 2010, on transfer of capture fisheries functions. The latter proclamation was now under review.

Cabinet had further suggested that the Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries should have the powers to administer the declaration and management of activities within the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), in order to allow DAFF more access to fish resources, especially for the small-scale and subsistence fishers. However, a legal opinion was obtained, which suggested that transfer of section 43 of the MLRA to DAFF, which deals with Marine Protected Areas, would be unconstitutional. After a series of meetings, the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Proclamation of 31 May 2013 was signed by the President. In terms of section 43, read together with the regulations for each MPA, the Minister of DAFF retained the powers and functions related to fisheries management in those MPAs where fishing was allowed, including permitting, fishing rights allocations, fisheries-related research and the power to enforce the types of fishing specified therein. He summarised that essentially this related to the MPAs of Betty’s Bay, Goukamma & Robberg MPAs, Castle Rock MPA & Sixteen Mile Beach, Langebaan Lagoon MPA, Malgas, Jutten Island & Marcus Island MPA, Table Mountain MPA, Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary, Aliwal Shoal MPA, Pondoland MPA and Stilbaai MPA.

Discussion
Mr P Van Dalen (DA) asked if the redefining of mandates between DEA and DAFF had affected the perlemoen (abalone) quotas granted in the previous year in the Eastern Cape MPA pilot project, and whether those quotas were legal. There had been a public outcry from the community because perlemoen quotas had been given to outsider fisherman who entered the protected area to extract perlemoen.

Mr Stevens replied that no abalone quotas had been given in the Eastern Cape. There were about 1 500 beneficiaries working with the DST scientists and communities on the possibility of experimental abalone fishing becoming a commercial fishing reality.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked if DAFF was dealing with the poaching problem.

Mr Stevens replied that while DAFF was responsible for protection and patrolling, it worked in collaboration with DEA and law enforcement agencies, in line with its Integrated Security Strategy. DAFF also had a service level agreement where, if necessary, it would assist DEA around Marion Island and Edward Island, by providing vessels for protection.

Mr L Gaehler (UDM) said that he felt that the Committee should know the true facts about the experimental abalone fishing sites, and the related issues with DEA and the Parks Board.

Mr Stevens replied that a detailed document, including the list of beneficiaries, would be made available to the Committee.

Mr Van Dalen said that in the previous meeting, a Member had requested that seal harvesting be re-explored and DAFF had responded that issues of seal harvesting fell under the mandate of DEA. He wished to put on record that he Members of the Committee did not share a common sentiment on seal harvesting.

The Chairperson suggested that a joint sitting with DEA may assist in that regard.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) commented that the matter was important because food security was under threat.

Management of the DAFF Fleet of Fisheries Protection and Research Vessels
Mr Stevens recalled that DAFF had already given an update to the Committee on vessel management. At a meeting in Simonstown between DAFF and South African Navy (SAN), the SAN was informed that DAFF would be removing the fleet, and civilian vessel management and repairs and maintenance services would be sought. The vessels had been transferred to DAFF and two interim service providers. Damen Shipyards would be attending to repairs and maintenance, and Nautic SA (Pty) Ltd would be running the vessel operations of the fleet on a six month contract. During this interim period the final tender process would continue.

The vessels included the following:

- Sarah Baartman, an offshore fisheries protection vessel, which was awaiting valves to be replaced,  which had been ordered by the SAN, and also awaiting availability of the dry dock in Simon’s Town.  Her Military Spec valves arrived in South Africa on 27 May 2013. She was 50% ready for sea voyages and was expected to be finalised by end of June.
- Ruth First, an inshore fisheries protection vessel, was awaiting registration onto the SA Ships Register and her South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) statutory surveys were still outstanding. She was 95% ready for sea and the outstanding requirements were expected to be completed in the following two weeks. 
- Victoria Mxenge, an inshore fisheries protection vessel, was awaiting registration onto the SA Ships Register and the SAMSA statutory surveys were still outstanding. She was 95% ready for sea.
- Lilian Ngoye, an inshore fisheries protection vessel, had her engine service started by SAN in January 2013, and it was hoped that she would be dry-docked at the end of June 2013.
- Florence Mkhize was a fast-chase boat at Damen Shipyards. The date for sea readiness was still to be finalised.
- Ellen Khuzwayo, a research vessel, was 80% sea-ready and expected to be fully ready at the end of June 2013.
- FRS Africana, a research vessel, had 12 Conditional Class items still outstanding. She also needed a dry docking to repair her bow thruster seal.  DAFF had requested the use of the Navy dry dock and was awaiting an answer. In principle the SAN had agreed to assist with the use of the dry dock, at a cost. She was 80% ready for sea and was also expected to be ready by the end of June.

DAFF had contracted a Vessel Technical Advisor Expert to assist with development of specifications and advice. Appointment of the new management agency to assist DAFF with management of the DAFF fleet was expected in August or September 2013. The submission date for tenders was 2 August 2013. Bidders would be briefed on 28 June 2013.

Discussion
Mr Van Dalen asked why, if the Minister of DAFF was the executive authority on everything to do with fisheries, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) was involved in the handing over of fishing boats to the fishing communities.

Mr Stevens replied that by the following week, DAFF would have finalised the Comprehensive Support Programme for small-scale fisheries. Dti was one of nine intergovernmental departments that would contribute to the implementation of this programme.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that the presentation had not given him confidence. It was not clear what was meant by a vessel being, for example, “95% ready for sea”.

Mr Stevens replied that a vessel may be repaired, but was not yet sea worthy.  He could not give an exact date that the vessels would be on the sea, as the time required for licencing, for example, did not depend on DAFF alone.

The Chairperson suggested that the document should have included a clause that listed all the outstanding matters that were not within DAFF’s domain, so that the Members could get more clarity on the extent to which each vessel was ready.

Mr Gaehler said that the lack of ability to set time frames for when government entities would be ready with classification and other issues indicated a lack of leadership, which was of particular concern since it was public money that was being spent. The Committee was entitled to clear and proper information. The manager of a vessel should know, for instance, when a valve was expected to arrive, give or take a few weeks. He added that he hoped this time around, the tender would have a clause for skills transfer and for proper maintenance of vessels. He asked what the mandate was of the interim service providers, how much of taxpayers’ money had been paid to them, and to the SAN.

Mr Abram commented that generally, civil servants did not take interest in the ordinary citizen, who was of course the tax payer. Even poor people were charged 14% VAT when they walked into a shop. There had to be a change in the way DAFF was doing business. R7 billion of taxpayers’ money was given to DAFF so that it could perform responsibly. Contracts had to be designed in such a way that contractors would be subjected to a fine for under-performance. He also wanted to know what the value was of the contract signed with Damen Shipyards on 3 April 2013, and Nautic SA on 24 April 2013, and what progress had been made since signing of the contracts.

Mr Stevens replied that the experts appointed had been advising DAFF around the specifications for the tender. The document stipulated the technical requirements needed for the five-year contract and also set out that 95% of all jobs and of contract price had to be to the benefit of South Africans. The contracts were aligned with South African laws, safety requirements, and employment equity. It was also clear in the document that skills must be transferred. The tender included SA vessels management. Damen shipyards contract cost R5 million, and Nautic SA crewing cost R55 million, both for fishing and research vessels. R31.5 million was paid to SAN. He noted that he had an open-door policy and would welcome any further queries or meeting with Members so that they could see what was happening.

Mr Abram asked for clarification on whether coastal waters were currently being patrolled, and if any poaching activity had been detected 200 nautical miles into sea. He was concerned that when fishers were finally given fishing rights, foreign vessels would have already fished all that there was to fish.

The Chairperson reminded DAFF and the Committee that this might be sensitive information and reminded them that if there were difficulties in giving precise information on security measures in open Committee, the information could also be disclosed confidentially to Members.

Mr Stevens replied that there was an integrated strategy to address poaching. DAFF liaised with the Navy, Defence Force and Air Force around enforcement in high poaching areas. DAFF fast boats worked in strategic areas, but the exact places and details of deployment involved operational matters, which could not be divulged here. There were 4 500 fishing vessels registered on the Vessel Monitoring System, 1 500 of which were actively monitored. He invited the Committee to see how this was done.

Mr Van Dalen asked for an update on the investigations into the alleged corrupt award of the vessels tender to Smit Amandla Marine, and the subsequent tender to Sekunjalo. He suggested that it would be prudent not advertise for the new tender until the outcome of these investigations had been announced. He also asked why the tender would be advertised internationally, when the Minister had announced that the BEE company of Sekunjalo would create jobs for local black people. He made the point that empowerment of black people in South Africa would be achieved by advertising in South Africa. He also asked for an update on the status of Nautic Africa, previously trading as KND, pointing out that this was the company allegedly involved in the Sekunjalo tender. Ms Greta Apelgren-Narkedien of the DAF had said that no company involved in the corrupt awarding of the vessels tender would be eligible to apply for any interim contract. The Committee needed assurance in this regard.

Mr Stevens replied that the investigation into the previous tender with Smit Amandla was done by the Public Protector and the Hawks, and the process was sub judice. The Hawks was also investigating DAFF. Such questions could be directed to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, at the appropriate time. The two interim contractors, Damen Shipyards and Nautic SA, were performing separate work. According to DAFF records, the tenders were awarded through proper process and were not related to previous tenders. Allegations without facts to support them did not help DAFF.

The Chairperson affirmed that the Smit Amandla case was sub judice and therefore DAFF could not be expected to respond.

Ms Phaliso said that it was important that the Committee received the outcome of the research conducted by experts in DAFF so that they were fully informed of the status of fishing, areas, species, etc.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should be invited on to the vessels and to speak to the SAN, as this would short circuit a number of queries.

Mr Stevens replied that he led a dedicated team of officials who worked round the clock serving the people. They were briefed daily on the status of the vessels and reasons for delays. He had chosen not to give estimated dates on vessel readiness, as other institutions may not comply with agreed-upon dates.

Ms Phaliso asked if South Africa had local warehouses to manufacture and repair vessels locally. She believed that DAFF should identify the local artisans who could make vessels. The Africana was an old vessel inherited from the apartheid days. She asked DAFF to submit information to the Committee on the condition of the vessels in 1994.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF was in the process of expanding a Memorandum of Agreement with dti around incentive schemes for vessel building. DAFF was sure that South Africa did have capacity for vessel building, although it was not confident that a vessel as large as the Africana vessel could be built in South Africa.

Mr Abram asked how far the process of replacing the Africana was. He asked for clarification on whether the vessel expert was contracted for the interim process, or some other time period.

Mr Stevens replied that the replacement of the Africana, which was estimated to still have five years of operation remaining, was estimated to cost R1 billion. DAFF would work together with National Treasury, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and DEA to ensure that the research vessel was an asset to the government as a whole.

Mr S Abram (ANC) asked for what time period, and at what cost, DAFF was chartering the Compass Challenger for the sardine and anchovy survey.

Mr Stevens replied that cost of the contract with the Compass Challenger for the recruitment survey was R10 million.

Mr Gaehler asked if the Damen and Nautic companies were BEE compliant, and if skills transfer was ensured.

Mr Stevens replied that the two interim contractors were BEE compliant and their level of BEE compliance would be made available to the Committee. DAFF was vigilant of the need to transfer a broad range of skills, as it was concerned that there were not sufficient historically disadvantaged individuals working in the marine industry. DAFF had advertised bursaries for the marine industry along coastal areas. Together with other departments, DAFF aimed to build capacity in the industry.

Mr Gaehler suggested that people in poor communities could best be contacted through the local community radio.

Mr Stevens replied that fishery development workers were the interface between DAFF and all the fishing communities, except the Northern Cape. DAFF hoped to finalise part of the rights allocation process through agreement with the community radio stations and Government Communication Information Systems (GCIS) to ensure that messages would get to the communities in all coastal provinces.

Ms Phaliso asked if the proposed satellite offices in coastal communities had become operational.

Mr Stevens replied that the decentralisation process had led to offices in Saldanha, Lamberts Bay, Mossel Bay, East London, St Helena Bay and a few offices in KwaZulu Natal (KZN). As soon as the administration of the offices was ready, the communities would be informed about where they should go. The Fishing Rights Allocation Process Steering Committee would ensure that all areas across the coast would have offices where rights applications would be dealt with. The Rapid Response Unit in DAFF would be established by the end of June 2013 and would be dedicated to assist with the long-term rights allocation process  on a full-time basis.

The Chairperson asked how many satellite offices there would be and how many would be operational by July 2013, to deliver the rights application services.

The Chairperson asked for comment on the Fishing Charter transformation process.

Mr Stevens replied that the Minister was keen for DAFF to proceed with the establishment of the Fisheries Transformation Council, which was provided for in the Marine Living Resources Act. DAFF was currently receiving legal advice and then would begin establishment of the Charter, in compliance with the BBBEE Act.

Status of South African Marine Fishery Resources
Mr Stevens presented a summary of the status of the managed key resources: Cape hake, abalone, West Coast rock lobster and linefish. The summary of each included detail on stock status, fishing pressure, accessibility and likeliness to be over-fished (see attached presentations for full details).

The annual catch for Cape hake equaled that of all other South African marine fisheries combined, and was the only fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The Operational Management Procedure aimed at recovering deep-water hake was succeeding in meeting its target more rapidly than expected.

From Gansbaai to Buffeljags, abalone stocks continued to decline, due to poaching. DAFF’s recovery plan included gradual increases in Total Allocated Catch (TAC) if poaching was reduced by 15% per year. From Hangklip to Hermanus, abalone stocks continued to decline due to poaching and a zero TAC was set for these zones. On the West Coast, despite indications of increased poaching, stock status was assumed to be relatively stable. In the Eastern Cape, a three-year experiment was under way to determine resource abundance and productivity. Levels of abalone poaching in South Africa were far higher than the total estimated sustainable catch, and 60% of the poached abalone was below reproductive age.

The West Coast rock lobster industry generated around R400 million per year and employed around 4 200 people. This resource was currently severely depleted, and recovery plans aimed to recover the resource by 35% by 2021. It was still too early to tell whether the resource was responding.

Linefish was a multisectoral fishery. The subsistence and small-scale sector included 8 000 recognized fishers, 85% of whom harvested linefish. The commercial boat-based fleet had 455 boats, but only contributed 6% of the total value of marine fisheries. The recreational sector included about 4 000 boats and more than 36 000 people purchased permits annually. The spin-off revenue was estimated to be in the billions of rands annually. Intense fishing pressure had led to widespread depletion of linefish stocks, but emergency measures in place since 2000 appeared to be having results for some linefish species.

Discussion
Mr Van Dalen commented that poachers were created from disenfranchised fishers. The current laws were prohibiting them from doing their work. They could get only R120 per kg for legally harvested lobsters. The quota equated to R25 000 per year and this was unsustainable. They would have to steal five times more than the quota to survive. Decent quotas, equal treatment for all (which included not closing the season to small-scale fishers while the big ships were still fishing), and protecting the coast would deter illegal harvest of rock lobster or any other fish. He then asked for clarity on when the rock lobster fishers could apply for rights, as they would not be included in the upcoming fishing rights application and yet were dependent on fishing to make a living.

Mr Stevens agreed that poaching was a consequence of people not having adequate fishing opportunities. While DAFF was keen to implement the small-scale fishing policy, and the communities were tired of interim relief permits, he could not pre-empt the outcome of a meeting with the small-scale industry representatives where the matter would be discussed. DAFF would also soon be consulting more broadly with an inter-governmental forum to decide on the best way forward regarding the application date for rock-lobster fishers.

Mr Van Dalen said that a court decision on a matter relating to a protest to stop crayfish harvesting was expected on the following day. In court, DAFF had argued that there was enough crayfish for harvesting. He asked where the crayfish would come from.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF and the fishing industry were united in their opposition to the “irrational” court injunction application by the Green Party. DAFF had discussed its recovery plan for West Coast Rock Lobster with world-renowned scientists from University of Cape Town and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). As stated in court by DAFF, during the recovery period over the past two decades, there had never been a higher recovery rate than 3.5% of pristine. Therefore, it was a fallacy that DAFF mismanagement had caused the current level of the resource. There were management protocols, dates and targets attached to the recovery plan, as well as working groups who were monitoring recovery on a monthly basis. DAFF was sure that, over the next decade, West Coast Rock Lobster would increase to 4.8% of pristine.

Mr Van Dalen asked where the extra quota for fish for small-scale fishing would come from, bearing in mind that resources were under severe threat. Expectations had been raised and between 50 000 and 100 000 people were expected to apply for rights.

Mr Abram said that while the presentation showed the challenges of depleted and heavily depleted stocks of certain species, and while there was no doubt of the deleterious effects of climate change and poachers, a small-scale fishing policy was about to be implemented, which would advertise widely for applications for fishing rights. Expectations from small-scale fishers were high, and they deserved the truth about what was in store for them in terms of TAC. There were thousands of jobs at stake. Innovative plans for each species, and a coordinated plan for aquaculture, were drastically needed.

Mr Stevens replied that although a bitter and drastic situation existed, there was no crisis around allocation of fishery resources for small-scale fishing. There were 22 fishery resources currently commercially harvestable and these resources would remain the same. Each resource had quotas or TAEs and TACs. On an annual basis, the research was updated. The TACs were divided amongst the sectors that benefitted from the TAC.

The Working for Fisheries Programme, which was started specifically to look at alternatives, contributed R8 million for aquaculture research and R7 million for aquaculture operational projects. Some of the aquaculture projects were funded through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) grant of R71 million per year contribution to DAFF projects. Presentations to DAFF executives to increase funding for dependents of fishers may not yield results. The Aquaculture Strategy was a joint venture with dti, to ensure that it became an instrument to deal with matters of over-utilisation of wild-caught fishing. The DAFF Research team and the Marine Resource Management team, together with EnAct International, had developed innovative steps for the allocation process. After 14 June, DAFF would go on another road show to engage with communities and stakeholders on the implementation plan of the small-scale fishery process. Currently, a legal reference group was advising DAFF on the Amendment Bill, together with a scientific reference group from Universities of Cape Town, Western Cape and Rhodes University, to make the small-scale fishery policy a reality.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) asked where the aquaculture projects were located.

Mr Gaehler also asked where the five aquaculture fish farms in the Eastern Cape were located.

Mr Stevens replied that the five farms were located in the Eastern Cape in Hamburg (oyster and cob) and Kamdebo near Graaff-Reinet (catfish), and three farms were located in the Free State (he named one as Koffiefontein, but the other two names were inaudible). DAFF assisted these farms with access to markets, sourcing funding and technical support, with collaboration with other departments,  and with additional funding. DAFF was clear that it aimed to elevate aquaculture.

Mr Cebekhulu asked for clarity on the rules around designated spots such as those along the KZN coast at St Lucia and Sodwana, where people were issued with permits to extract Mussels.

Mr Stevens replied that around 1 400 people had exemptions to extract mussels in that area and these fishers were targeted for small-scale economically-viable fishing rights for a basket of species. Aquaculture aimed to supplement fish farming in areas where there was a need. DAFF had approached National Treasury for funding of aquaculture, which was referred to as a ‘special project’.

Mr Gaehler said that there was a problem with poaching in the Dwesa/Cwebe coast of the Eastern Cape and that the Parks Board was not assisting the communities in this regard. He suggested that DAFF should intervene.

Mr Stevens replied that the Chief Director of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance, Mr Mtobe, would respond to the question.

Mr Abram said that the war against poaching was far from being won. Information given to the Committee had to be backed up by DAFF, DEA and dti research. He said that the scenario was sombre. A budget had to be set, giving the necessary funding, before it was too late. He suggested that it was high time to deploy more than coastal guards to watch the coastline of 3 000km and that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) should also be involved. A further intervention suggested was for extensive fish-farming (depending on the habitat) to span the entire state-owned coastline.

Mr Stevens replied that while research was being conducted on resources, it was clear that research funding was inadequate. He agreed that poaching had to be tackled more intensely. Poaching was not only about arresting and criminalising people, but about social development and increasing the community involvement in decision-making around resource allocation, which had been taking place over the past seven years. There were core-management structures and specific steps for the process.

Mr Van Dalen asked how the WWF downgrading of rock lobster to orange status would affect rock lobster sales.

Mr Cebekhulu asked if the large scale fishers such as I&J, who had power and equipment, were monitored and controlled by DAFF.

The Chairperson asked how DAFF collaborated with DEA on MPAs, not only with regard to poaching but relating to fishing licenses in areas such as St Lucia, Dwesa-Cwebe and Coffee Bay, and how those areas could be fished for the benefit of communities.

These three questions were not answered during the meeting.

Mr Cebekhulu asked if DAFF had performed research on the viability of controlling the fishing areas with fencing and sea-traps, to control the risk of periodic over-fishing and possibly also to expose poaching.

Mr Stevens replied that this was referred to as ranching. DAFF had approved a ranching programme for abalone in the Eastern Cape. With the depletion of abalone stock, DAFF was looking at providing rights holders with alternatives, which included ranching opportunities. A state-owned hatchery project would soon be launched.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked where exactly abalone existed along the coasts.

Mr Stevens replied that abalone appeared naturally in small areas along the coast from Saldanha Bay to Transkei. It was a slow-growing animal.

Mr Gaehler asked if the 30 000 subsistence fishers were registered.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF had rectified its records. It had 8 000 registered small-scale fishers on record, 7 333 of whom currently had exemptions.

Ms Phaliso asked for progress on the abalone pilot project in Hondeklipbaai, and asked if DAFF was involved in the project together with DST and the University of Stellenbosch.

Mr Stevens replied that he was unaware of the abalone project, and that he would investigate it before responding to the question.

Ms Phaliso asked if DAFF was making use of indigenous knowledge and if DAFF could brief the Committee on the effect of marine mining on rock lobster stocks. She also requested that the Department of Transport brief the Committee on marine transport plans.

Mr Van Dalen asked if the new bill dealing with fishing rights had been handed in to the Speaker, since the closing date for legislation was 9 June 2013, yet the comments period closed on 14 June. He asked how the Bill could be handed in before the comment period had been completed.

Mr Stevens replied that DAFF had requested a special dispensation to introduce the Marine Living Resources Act Amendment Bill. From the 14 June, the legal reference group would consolidate comments and produce the final draft of the Amendment Bill and policies. DAFF hoped that its Bill would be included in a group of the few special bills prioritised for special dispensation.

The Chairperson asked what could be done in terms of license agreements for abalone fishing, as 130 beneficiaries of 1.5 tonnes of abalone per annum was not worth the effort, nor economically viable.  

Mr Stevens replied that perhaps the presentation had not explained the situation adequately. No rights or exemptions had been given. Experiments were being conducted in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces to determine whether the TAC of abalone could be increased. In the Eastern Cape, DAFF decided to broaden the beneficiary base, but the experiment could actually have been conducted with a much smaller number of people. Currently there were 1 500 people involved in that experiment, for the benefit of training and skills transfer. After three years of research, if there was evidence to support the viability of commercial abalone fishing, allocations would be given to deserving communities.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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