Window-dressing was huge in the fishing industry, and those who were practising it knew the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was not going to do anything about it. That was why fishermen in the primary co-operatives were going to be registered as 100% owners, and they would have a seat in the secondary co-operatives, which processed the catches. This is what the Portfolio Committee heard when the DAFF tabled its overview of the draft Small-scale Fisheries regulations.
The Committee learnt that the purpose of the proposed regulations was to ensure equitable access to fish by small-scale fishing communities; to recognise a multi-species approach in the granting of rights to small-scale fisheries; to transform the inequalities of the past fisheries system; and to address the high levels of abject poverty, socio-economic development and food insecurity in the small-scale fishing communities.
The Office of the Chief State Law Advisor had vetted the draft regulations and minor amendments had been incorporated into the final draft. The Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) Amendment Act could be promulgated only once the regulations had been prescribed to address certain matters contained in section 19. The regulations empowered the Minister to identify, verify, register and recognise both small-scale fishers and small-scale fishing communities. The verification of individual fishers would be done in consultation with the fishing community.
Concerning co-operatives, fishing rights and fish processing establishments, the Minister would determine the number of allowed co-operatives to operate per fishing zone, based on fish sustainability and fishing practices. Co-operatives would be in two forms – a primary co-operative and a secondary one. The primary co-operative would be involved in fishing operations while the secondary one would deal with processing and market access. The primary co-operative was the only one that was eligible to apply for a small-scale fishing right, and the secondary co-operative could not operate without being issued with a fish processing establishment right.
Regarding the multi-species approach, the Minister was compelled to approve the list and quantity of fish species to be allocated for own consumption and commercial purposes, after consulting the fishing community. The Minister could intervene in the apportionment of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Total Applied Effort (TAE) only when co-operatives failed to reach agreement. The Minister may also increase the basket composition and quantity after a request to do so by the small-scale fishing community.
The Small-scale Fisheries policy stated clearly that the co-management structure would be made up of officials of the Department, the conservation authority and small-scale fishers. The regulations provided a constitutional template that could be used by co-operatives when drawing up their own constitutions. The draft constitution covered important functions, such as membership roles and responsibilities, the liability of members, conditions and processes for termination of membership, management of co-operatives, general meetings, financial management, and amendment of the constitution governing co-operatives.
Members asked the Department to provide evidence showing that the attendees of workshops held in 2014 regarding the small-scale fisheries programme had made comments and had been fully informed about the process. They wanted to find out if the Department had considered the fact that there was not enough fish in the ocean and that would hinder achieving equitable access. They wanted to establish how effective the round of consulting people had been because they had not heard a mention of traditional leaders, and if the consultation process had not been done properly, people would be left not knowing what to do. The DAFF was asked if people were informed about what a co-operative was and how it was run, and why there was always in-fighting between community members when allocation rights had been granted.
Briefing by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Ms Siphokazi Ndudane, Acting Deputy Director-General in Fisheries Management; DAFF, presented an overview of the draft Small-Scale Fisheries regulations. The 14 regulations were:
- This specifies who qualified to be a small-scale fisher.
- The purpose of the regulations: to ensure equitable access to fish by small-scale fishing communities; to recognise a multi-species approach in the granting of rights; to transform the inequalities of the past fisheries system; and to address poverty, food security and socio-economic development. It had been deliberated that co-operatives were the way to go. This regulation aimed to grant access to people who had been denied access deliberately.
- The identification, verification and registration of the fishers. It includes the process of expression of interest, and a small-scale fisher verification criterion would be used. The process of identifying the fishers had been distanced from the Department, hence the appointment of a service provider to do the identification and verification.
- This regulation looks at co-operatives and the granting of fishing rights. It states that the Minister determines the number of co-operatives and allocates to co-operatives that are registered in terms of the Co-operatives Act, 2005, and the Minister has to determine if it has to be a primary small-scale fisheries co-operative. This regulation provides for only verified small-scale fishers to be members of the co-operative and prohibits members of co-operatives to be owners of a commercial right. The duration of the right may not exceed 15 years. The regulation states that small-scale fishing rights can not be transferred and makes provision for access to a basket of species.
- This makes provision for additional members to be added to the co-operative after three years of awarding the small-scale fishing right to the co-operative. It also makes provision for the replacement of members to be considered in the case of death or resignation of existing members. Additional members must meet the criteria to be recognised as a small-scale fisher. The Minister is required to approve the amendments to co-operative membership.
- This regulation focuses on the fish processing establishment rights and secondary co-operatives. It states that only secondary co-operatives comprising two or more primary small-scale fisheries co-operatives are eligible to apply for a fish processing right. It also states that primary co-operatives must have 100% ownership of the secondary co-operative, and primary co-operatives would be allowed to store fish. However, the issue of fish storage was still being discussed to ensure they had the facilities that were required.
- Elements of the co-operative constitution and management plan are specified.
- This deals with certain powers and duties of co-operatives. By the second season, a primary co-operative that sells fish must be a member of at least one secondary co-operative. After the second season, a primary co-operative shall only sell fish to a secondary co-operative. The co-operatives may be the recipient of a transferred commercial fishing right. The co-operatives can employ the services of any person, if members of the co-operatives do not have the necessary skills.
- This focuses on the multi-species approach. The co-operatives are required to request initial access to a basket of species. The Minister has to approve species for own use and those for commercial use per co-operative. This regulation prescribes management measures for species’ utilization, including Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Total Applied Effort (TAE). In the first year of allocation, the co-operatives are given first choice to agree on apportionment of the TAC and TAE between co-operatives in the same region. If there is no agreement reached, then the Minister would be required to determine the apportionment.
- This looks at small-scale fishing areas. It states that fishing areas would be established, based on the type of species required. The Minister may demarcate multiple fishing areas per co-operative. There had been a suggestion of municipal demarcation, but the fish did not know boundaries, so the issue was still to be looked at.
- It deals with the co-management of structures. The Minister is expected to establish local, regional and national co-management committees, and to appoint members. The committees are required to share the responsibility in the management of resources. The committees would be composed of small-scale fisher members, government officials and affected parties. The appointment would be for a maximum of three years.
- This regulation is about a conflict resolution mechanism. Internal conflict is to be dealt with by following the co-operatives’ internal dispute resolution mechanism. The Minister is not responsible to resolve internal disputes, but may facilitate mediation and arbitration proceedings for a conflict between a small-scale co-operative and a third party.
- It deals with compliance. The constitution of co-operatives has to specify actions to be taken against members that contravene provisions of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA). The Director-General has to be informed of such action taken.
- The constitution is an important document that governs the functioning of the co-operative. It also explains what members can and can not do within the entity. By prescribing a constitution template, all co-operatives would have to use the same template. The constitution was based on other constitutional models that were currently used for co-operatives. The template had been tailored to address small-scale fisheries matters.
Some points to note were that only verified small-scale fishers could be members of the co-operative; no shareholding of members was applicable; by-laws needed to specify the conflict resolution mechanisms, the division of labour, remuneration of work, distribution of profits, utilisation of species, marketing plan, and the involvement of women, youth and people with disabilities.
Lastly, in the process of finalising regulations, the draft regulations had been published on 6 March 2015 and hadbeen uploaded on the website of the Department. Translated versions in isiXhosa, Afrikaans and isiZulu had also been uploaded on the website. The public had had 30 days from the time of publication to comment on the draft regulations. Road shows to explain the regulations to stakeholders had been conducted between 16 and 23 March. The Minister had then invited a second round of comments on 28 April. All the comments received and associated responses would be recorded. Comments that were accepted would be incorporated in the final Regulations. The Minister would be required to approve the final Regulations. It was envisaged that the MLRA Amendment Act and Final Regulations would be promulgated on 31 July 2015.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) asked the Department to provide evidence showing that the attendees of workshops held in 2014 regarding the small-scale fisheries programme had made comments and had been fully informed about the process. She wanted to find out if the Department had considered the fact that there were not enough fish in the ocean, and that this would hinder achieving equitable access. She further enquired if the Department was able to deliver on its core mandate, considering its lack of capacity.
Ms Ndudane said that the evidence requested would be provided to the Committee. It had not been in all places visited that people had felt they did not understand what the small-scale fisheries programme was all about. Department officials were currently compiling the comments – the ones that were going to be taken into consideration -- but not all comments would be documented. Concerning the issue of insufficient fish in the ocean, she reported that the Fisheries Branch of the Department monitored 22 commercial fisheries. Of the 22, four were of interest to small-scale fisheries. It was expensive to go deep into the ocean for a number of days, and the four commercial fisheries were not expensive. The 18 remaining sectors were available.
She highlighted that deep-sea fishing was for profit making to ensure that the big companies remained sustainable. It was the responsibility of the Department to ensure there was fishing for future generations. Maintaining a sustainable fisheries management was not easy when one had to make sure there was enough fish in the ocean, while allowing people to fish for consumption. This was a global phenomenon.
Mr Mortimer Mannya, Deputy Director: Food Security and Agrarian Reform, DAFF, admitted they were limited in terms of capacity within the Fisheries Division but they were making sure they were carrying out their mandate with their little resources while the Division was still negotiating with the Treasury. The Fisheries Division was continuing to do its work with organisations it was in partnership with.
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) remarked that the Fisheries Division of DAFF was complex. The Department needed to improve the work of people in that Division and let the Committee know about the skills that were available and unavailable. He wanted to establish how effective the round of consulting people had been, because he had not heard mention of traditional leaders, and if the consultation process continued not to be done properly, people would be left not knowing what to do. He further wanted to know if the three years within the fifteen years granted to co-operatives for fishing rights, was meant for piloting. He asked for clarity on the difference between a primary and a secondary co-operative.
Ms Ndudane responded that the process consultation had not been done to the maximum. Consultation with traditional leaders had not taken place. When work had been started in 2007, the emphasis had been about the setting up of co-operatives for fishing rights. That was why the Department had appointed a service provider to help in the registration of small-scale fishers. The service provider was going to work with the communities, not a community representative who was going to decide on bona fide fishers. It was the community that was going to know who the bona fide fisher was. She indicated that civil servants did not want to go out and see the conditions on the ground, and that resulted in poor communication with the communities.
Referring to the three years within the 15-year period of fishing rights, she said that the three year period was a pilot period to ensure things went well during that phase so that the co-operative could continue. However, if things did not work out during this three-year period, then intervention would take place. On the difference between the primary and secondary co-operatives, she explained that the primary co-operative were comprised fishermen. They did the catching, then a secondary co-operative processed the catch.
She highlighted that window-dressing was huge in the fishing industry and those who were practising it knew the Department was not going to do anything about it. That was why fishermen in the primary co-operative were going to be registered as 100% owners, and they would have a seat in the secondary co-operatives, which processed the catches
Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) wanted to find out about the form of consultation that took place, because this programme was about empowering people at grassroots level. He enquired what the plan for monitoring and evaluation was.
Ms Ndudane responded that consultation had been in the form of imbizos, from the Northern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. People who spoke languages spoken in those areas were deployed. Participants commented in their own languages. The imbizos done so far may not have beeen optimal, but follow-ups would be done to make sure people understood the value of the products they fished. On monitoring and evaluation, she said there was no plan as yet. The Department was in the process of developing the plan with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) in order to monitor the catches. As part of the plan, there was a software tool that was being developed to monitor catches by co-operatives accurately.
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked why the Act was being amended again. She also asked if people were informed about what a co-operative was and how it was run, and wanted to find out if people understood what TAC (Total Allowable Catch) meant.
Mr Mannya, explaining why the Act was being amended again, indicated that the MLRA Amendment Act was a piece of legislation that had been amended but was awaiting the finalisation of regulations so that it was promulgated.
Ms Ndudane said that training people about the workings of a co-operative still remained a challenge, because people needed skills in bookkeeping and banking. The Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had expressed interest in helping, but had not committed funding. The DAFF had committed a sum of R10 million. Regarding the TAC, she said there had not been a clear guideline on this matter because if it was left to communities to decide on how much they could catch, it would lead to endless fights. That was why the final decision for now lay with the Minister if communities could not reach an agreement.
Mr Z Mandela (ANC) commented that it was important that people at grassroots level were empowered about the value of the products they fished. He said that he was recently sold a dozen of lobsters by a street vendor in Port St Johns for R200, whereas two lobsters in a restaurant were selling for R200.
The Chairperson asked for clarity about the public participation process that had happened at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, because Mr Mannya and Ms Ndudane had visited the area but had never said a word to the community. She also asked why the Northern Cape was not mentioned in the programme.
Mr Mannya responded they had visited Ezemvelo in order to review the contracts the Department had got with it, because Ezemvelo was an agent in monitoring and surveillance. It facilitated small-scale fisheries and conducted research. Because it employed a number of people, the visit had been necessary to determine what would be done when the contracts were not renewed, so that job creation could continue. Traditional leaders were not consulted. The matter was still under discussion. Concerning the Northern Cape, the province was included in the programme because it abutted a portion of the ocean.
Mr Ramokhoase wanted to find out why there was always in-fighting between community members when allocation rights had been granted. He also wanted to know what happened when the small-scale fisher (co-operative) grows big.
Ms Ndudane said the in-fighting was caused by marketers. They looked at the tonnage and estimated the value. They then gave the community an advance -- for example, R300 000. When that money did not get shared equitably, the fight started. On small-scale fishers becoming big, she informed the Committee there was nothing like a small-scale fishery or commercial fisher. Fishing was commercial – period! Even if it was for recreational purposes, that fish could be sold. The difference lay in the scale. The desired output of the government was to have the small-scale graduate become big, not to remain small forever. The right to fish was granted for a particular period. The small-scale could grow big and get fishing rights provided it was time for allocations, or the right of another fisher had been revoked.
The Chairperson enquired if the R10 million the Department had set aside was for training or for the implementation of the entire small-scale fisheries programme.
Ms Ndudane said that the R10 million was for the implementation of the plan for only one year – this current financial year. Each financial period was going to have its own allocation. The DTI and DSBD were going to make their own allocations.
Ms Jongbloed wanted to establish what was going to happen to already existing co-operatives, seeing that new ones were going to be introduced. How would the Department avoid the recurrence of the same mistakes, seeing that the consultation process had not been successful because of shortcomings? Lastly, she wanted to know what the basket of species was going to look like.
Ms Ndudane said the existing co-operatives were not going to be null and void. They had to be modified to suit the criteria of the Department, but if they did not, they would be disbanded. Concerning evading past mistakes, she said that live comments had been received and had been incorporated into the report that was being compiled. The Department had got an idea of what the basket of species was going to look like, but it was going to be guided by what was available in a particular area because the oceans were diverse and contained different species. The list would be sent to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.