Small Scale Fishing Licences: progress report by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

23 June 2015
Chairperson: Mr O Sefako (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries said the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy aims to expand the number and strength of small fisheries in coastal areas. SSFP initiatives include increasing the number of fishing licenses to small, traditional fisheries. One challenge to this initiative involves fairly allocating Department resources between small communities and the commercial fishing sector. The Department has reached out to local communities and traditional leaders to implement the SSFP. The initial deadline to implement the SSFP has moved from March 2016 to July 2016 due to unforeseen delays. However, the Department has completed the first stage of its five-phase plan and is making significant progress on the remaining phases.

Members welcomed these developments. They asked about the Department's implementing agent in KwaZulu Natal province; if all sectors such as coastal communities, traditional leaders, women, youth and Khoisan were consulted in developing its policy and regulations; and if DAFF had the capacity to implement the policy. They commented on DAFF's challenge with iSimangaliso Wetland Park which uses its own regulations to issue fishing licences rather than the Marine Living Resources Act. The Committee offered to intervene with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to discuss the conflict with iSimangaliso, but DAFF said it would first try to resolve this on its own. Members were concerned about the maintenance of South African marine species in the face of illegal international fishing. The Department maintained that most international activity in South African waters was not due to illegal fishing, but rather to legal trading at South African ports. The Committee expressed satisfaction at the Department's progress with the SSFP thus far. Both groups agreed on the need for uniform licensing rules and greater cooperation between parks, other departments, and DAFF.

Meeting report

Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries on Implementation of Small-Scale Fisheries Policy
Mr Ceba Mtoba Chief Director: Monitoring Control and Surveillance extended an apology from the Acting Deputy Director General of Fisheries Management, Ms Siphokazi Ndudane, who was out of the country on work-related duties and was unable to attend the meeting. The delegation from the Department included:
Ms Sue Middleton - Chief Director of Fisheries Operations Support; Mr Craig Smith - Director of Small-Scale Fisheries Management; Mr Abongile Ngqongwa - Deputy Director for Small-Scale Fisheries.

Mr Craig Smith, Director of Small-Scale Fisheries Management, stated that the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) was complex, but he hoped to give the Committee clarity about the policy’s processes and challenges. Modern commercial fishing has excluded traditional, small-scale fishers from commercial fishing rights allocations. For example, the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) did not recognize small-scale fisheries (which was amended to include small fisheries in 2014). In 2007, an Equality Court Order compelled government to redress the inequality suffered by small-scale fishers. The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy was adopted in 2012 and its Implementation Plan was adopted in 2013.

The objectives of the SSFP include creating a sustainable small fishing sector and promoting the interests of women, the disabled, and children in that sector. The Department is now working with traditional, small-scale fisheries on a noncompetitive, community-based basis. This approach differs from the Department’s multi-species relationship with commercial fisheries.
The Implementation Plan comprises of five broad phases over five years:
- Phase One: Preparatory phase
- Phase Two: Development of support plans
- Phase Three: Mobilization of fisheries into cooperatives
- Phase Four: Allocation
- Phase Five: Post-allocation management and support.

The Department initially planned to allocate fishing rights in March 2016, but must push this date back because of some delays.

The first preparatory phase is nearly complete. Significant work has begun on the remaining four phases. The Department also launched an Expression of Interest campaign for communities in February 2015. The campaign allows coastal communities to show their interest in the SSFP before the Department launches the programme in those areas. The Department also engaged with 3 000 stakeholders and received comments on the SSFP. This financial year, the Department needs to review the comments it has received on its MLRA regulations. It will then promulgate the MLRA. The Department will continue to mobilize verified traditional fishers into Small-Scale Fisheries cooperatives with constitutions and management plans. It will also respond to all fishers who submitted an Expression of Interest in the Department’s programme (see Slide 8).

The Department identified the following challenges in implementing the SSFP:
- The budget for small scale fisheries is inadequate for many projects.
- The Department has no service provider in the KwaZulu Natal province.
- There is a conflict between the Department and iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a Department of Environmental Affairs entity) over the standards used to issue fishing licences. The Park is a World Heritage Site and a coastal area. The Park uses its own standards to issue fishing licences, while the Department uses the MLRA standards.
- Allocating resources to small fisheries takes resources from commercial sectors.
- The establishment of marine protected areas could limit the SSFP’s access to certain coastal areas. This is also under the purview of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
- To extend small fisheries, the Department will need more budget, staff, infrastructure and will be required to have offices in the four coastal provinces.

Ms E Prins (ANC, Western Cape) asked if the Department will have sufficient capacity to run the programme across all coastal provinces. How does the Department plan to resolve the problem of limited fishing resources?

Mr A Singh (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) asked why a service provider could not be appointed in KwaZulu Natal province. In addition, is there currently any competence training in KwaZulu Natal? He expressed concern about the conflict with iSimangaliso Wetland Park. He asked how the Department controls illegal international fishing. He was concerned that heavy international fishing may deplete South Africa’s resources. DAFF mentioned that the March 2016 deadline needed to be moved to a later date, but did not specify the replacement date. What is the new projected date?

Mr A Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked the Department to clarify its collaboration and consultation processes. Secondly, how many different user groups does the Department's SSCP reach? Thirdly, is the Department confident that its policy is inclusive of all user-groups, especially traditional leaders?

Mr Mtoba replied that consultations took place in all coastal provinces and usually did include traditional leaders. The consultations also included local authorities, youth, and women in the communities.

Mr Smith added that the Department reviewed the draft MLRA regulations with small-scale fisheries and recreational coastal groups before they were published. On whether the Department had the capacity to implement the SSCP, Mr Smith said this was a difficult question. The number of fishers participating in the SSCP process is not fully determined. The Department will be able to determine its capacity as it progresses with the policy.

Mr Smith then addressed Ms Prins' question about allocating resources. The issue is a contentious one. Some resources are already allocated to commercial fisheries. The Department needs to fairly split resources between small fisheries and the commercial sector. To do this, the Department must consult between these two groups to properly allocate resources.

On Mr Singh's concern about illegal international fishing in South African waters, Mr Smith said that there is a misconception that there are many foreign vessels fishing illegally in South African waters. In fact, foreign vessels make use of South African ports to trade supplies and offload fish, not necessarily to fish illegally. The Department has taken stringent measures to bolster compliance. Mr Smith added that the new time frame for the SSCP's last phase is July 2016.

Ms Sue Middleton, Chief Director of Fisheries Operations Support, replied about the lack of a service provider in KwaZulu Natal. The Department's Fisheries branch is present in Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape, but not in KwaZulu Natal. For KwaZulu Natal, the Department has an agency agreement with KZN Wildlife, which implements the Department's policies there. This agreement is why there is no service provider in KwaZulu Natal. The Department hopes to soon contract a unit directly instead of having an implementing agent.

Ms Middleton noted that the Controlling Board of iSimangaliso Park issues permits and fishing rights based on park regulations, not in terms of the MLRA. The Department bases fishing licences on the MLRA.

The Chairperson asked if the Khoisan people were part of consultations in the Western Cape.

Mr Singh asked if the agency the Department uses in KwaZulu Natal has been performing adequately. He expressed dissatisfaction that iSimangaliso Park uses its own licensing laws instead of the MLRA's.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee should be mindful that the DEA is also involved in the issue with iSimangaliso Park. The Committee has a cordial relationship with the DEA. The Committee could discuss iSimangaliso directly with the DEA.

Responding to the Chairperson's question, Mr Mtoba said the Department did not specifically consult with Khoisan leaders. He added that cooperation was needed between the Department and the DEA on iSimangaliso.

Responding to Mr Singh's question, Ms Middleton explained that the current implementing agent in KwaZulu Natal is effective.

Ms Middleton also thanked the Chairperson for offering to discuss iSimangaliso with the DEA. As a matter of politeness, the Department would first communicate with the DEA itself. However, if these communications were not fruitful, she requested the right to call on the Committee's support.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and asked for its closing comments.

Mr Mtoba thanked the Committee for its guidance and questions. The Department looks forward to making a difference in coastal communities. 

The Chairperson thanked Members, the delegation, the media, and supporting staff.

The meeting was adjourned.


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