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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 June 2005
LONG-TERM COMMERCIAL FISHING RIGHTS POLICY: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department briefing on Long-term Commercial Fishing Rights Allocations
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) informed the Committee that long-term commercial fishing rights would be allocated before 31 December 2005, since the Minister was only allowed to roll over these rights once. Officials explained how the new allocations had been arrived at. Four different clusters of fisheries had been identified, depending on their capital requirements or accessibility. The fee system had changed to a more equitable sliding scale as opposed to the previous two-fee structure. Officials explained the process of granting fishing rights, and the Department’s rights allocation schedule for the remainder of the year.
Members questioned how much consideration had been given to the concerns of big players in the industry. The Department explained that interaction with all stakeholders was an ongoing process. Due consideration had been given to all submissions and many had been incorporated into the policy document.
Dr M Mayekiso (Deputy Director-General) said long-term commercial fishing rights would be allocated before 31 December 2005, since the Minister was only allowed to roll over these rights once. The previous Minister had already rolled over rights in 2001. Four-year rights would be replaced by 8- to 15-year rights. The previous application fee of R6 000 would be changed. Wide ranging consultation had produced one general policy and 19 specific draft policies.
Fisheries had been categorised into four clusters, ranging from capital intensive to more accessible. Access had been broadened since 1994, even if the resource had remained unchanged. The Department envisaged a better system as a result of various factors, such as legal advice, information collected on performance and impact since 2001, consultation of stakeholders, and transparency. These improvements also included longer-term rights, competitive rights and separate consideration given to new entrants to the sector.
Exclusionary and comparative criteria would be applied in assessing applications. Applicants would be ranked and a cut-off point established. Successful applicants would be allocated a quantum. The outcome would be announced with a full record of the process. The Minister would consider appeals. Any decisions challenged would then lead to litigation.
Small companies had to be given a chance to perform and serious consideration had been given to the maintenance of stability in small, coastal towns.
The new fee system ranged fromR32 400 for hake trawl applications to R100 for oyster pickers. A further ‘grant of right’ fee would be charged to those that received fishing rights.
Mr A Share (Acting Chief Director: Resource Management) said extensive meetings had taken place from March to April in selected coastal towns and cities. The applicants falling into Cluster A had access to the electronic media and could apply and register electronically. Those falling into Clusters C and D would receive assistance with the application process. Applications for Cluster A rights would be invited by 16 June 2005. These would be gazetted. The distribution process for Cluster A would occur from 17 June to 1 July. Receipt of applications would occur from 14 to 15 July. Announcements of rights allocations would be made in September in time for the start of the season on 1 October.
Applications for Cluster B and C would be invited by July. Distribution centres would deal with applications from Cluster B, C and D. Announcements for Cluster B rights would be made by November. The long delay between application and announcement in Cluster C and D was as a result of previous instances where people had misrepresented themselves at the expense of real fishermen. The Department would publish a list of applicants first to allow people in the communities to come forward and report any possible misdemeanours in this regard. The Department would investigate these first and then come to a final decision and announcement. Announcements for Cluster D would be made in January 2006.
Ms Thabethe asked which fundamental changes had occurred in the policy.
Mr Swart asked when, since applications for Cluster D had closed on 26 May, the amendment would go through.
Mr D Olifant (ANC) asked for clarity on the fee structure, as there seemed to be confusion around this among applicants.
Ms C Johnson (NNP) asked how many distribution centres there were and whether they were adequately staffed to meet the needs of the people.
Mr L Greyling (ID) asked whether the public submissions had been taken into consideration and how the Department had reacted to recent protests regarding the draft policy. Considering the contentious nature of the policy, to what extent had the Department made attempts to get buy in from all stakeholders?
Mr G Morgan (DA) asked whether consultation had occurred in any other forums besides the Imbizos, particularly with business and unions.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked if there was a certain period within which fees could be paid and whether there would be any leniency for those who could not fulfil their quantum.
Mr Share said that the Department had received some 900 submissions. These could be summarised and placed into various categories. Some of these related to quantum and quantum pools in Cluster A fisheries, where a certain percentage of allocations was supposed to go to small and medium enterprises in terms of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act. Another type of submission had related to the issue of being granted rights in more than one Cluster. Reliance of resources had been a major consideration, and had been defined as at least 50% of annual income. This was a balancing criterion, while comparing reliance was defined as at least 75% of annual income. Another issue that had frequently been raised was the one of duration of rights, which many felt should be increased. This issue was directly linked to the transformation of the industry. It also related to financial assistance being granted by financial institutions only for longer rights as opposed to shorter rights. The Department had acknowledged receipt of every submission, although it could not address and respond to every comment, as they had been made by individuals acting in their personal capacity and acting in their capacities as representatives of various bodies.
The Department was currently finalising the draft policy for Cluster D, which related to trawl line fishing. Since 2001 there had been a reduction in certain fees. Previously there had only been two types of fees levied: R6 000 for full commercial rights and R500 for limited rights. Those with full commercial rights had to have five or more crew on their boats. Based on comments made during the Imbizos, a new fee structure had been determined in line with the value of each fishery. Line fishermen, and white mussel and oyster pickers had seen a reduction in their fees and were therefore satisfied. The fees for capital-intensive fisheries had increased, but the fees for most accessible fisheries had been reduced.
They were still finalising the venues for approximately ten distribution centres, which would be placed close to smaller coastal towns where they were most needed. They would be staffed on a full time basis.
Dr Mayekiso said that the Department had invited comment on the draft policy from all interested parties and stakeholders, although there had been no specific or special interaction with labour or business. Regarding the protest action that had occurred, the Department had interacted twice with a certain group through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC); once during May and again in June. A written response from the Department had not resulted in agreement and they were awaiting a response from NEDLAC in this regard.
No extension on the payment of fees could be granted, as this requirement was an exclusionary criterion. Fees had to be paid on application. Those who failed to attain their quota ran the risk of having their rights removed, as they were denying others with the ability to exercise those same rights. The Minister was legally empowered to do this.
Mr Morgan asked how the Department could justify having had no specific interaction with labour and business. Large employers had submitted comments to which the Department had not even responded to in writing. It seemed as though the Department had kept both labour and business at arm’s length.
Mr Swart asked what changes had been made to the draft policy as a result of the input received from stakeholders.
Mr M Moss (ANC) asked whether the Department expected any delays in the implementation of the policy.
Dr Mayekiso said consultation had occurred within the legal requirements of the Promotion of Access to Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) and Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The opportunity to comment had been given to all and these had been incorporated into the final policy document. Mr Share had alluded to some of the resultant changes, but it was difficult to specify them all, as they sometimes involved the changing of a word or nuance. He was confident that the current process would enable them to meet the set deadlines.
Mr Greyling questioned the idea of only considering the legal requirements for consultation in view of the long-term rights that were being affected as well as the levels of distrust and conflict, which had prevailed in the sector. Perhaps it would have been preferable to start with a clean slate. The broad framework on which the policy had been based had presented most stakeholders with a fait accompli, rather than an opportunity for change. The Department was involved in two court cases and Mr Greyling asked what the essence of the disagreement in these cases was and whether the policy would affect the outcome of the cases.
Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked what capital outlay was required for entrance into each of the Clusters and whether 10% of rights were still being put aside for new operators.
Mr Olifant wished them well considering the challenges, which lay ahead in bringing stability to the Sector. Unfortunately this would entail not being able to satisfy all players. He was however confident in their ability.
Dr Mayekiso said that for those that did not achieve their aims, there could never be enough consultation. It had to be understood that the broad framework provided by legislation was the starting point for change. If that were not accepted, the legislation would have to be changed. The Department had been interacting with industry associations and other stakeholders since 2001 and it was therefore incorrect to state that these last interactions were the sum of all engagements with all the stakeholders. The Imbizos, which took place in March, were simply more formalised versions of previous and ongoing interaction.
Mr Share said one should consider what informed and was relevant to the policy process. These were the Marine Living Resources Act, the President’s State of the Nation Address and the Constitution. The President had encouraged interventions that would facilitate people being integrated into the first economy. Appeals made at the various Imbizo’s and the Budget Vote and the various Resource Management Working Groups were all aspects that had informed this process since 2001. They had developed Sector Management Plans for each fishery sector. All these steps had contributed towards the final draft policy, even before the final and extensive engagement took place.
Capital outlay depended on which Cluster you were applying to receive rights in. One had to demonstrate access to a vessel if one of the criteria was access to a vessel, even if you were not the owner of a vessel. Fishermen could enter into various agreements with the owner of a vessel in order to meet this requirement. In Cluster A, capital outlay was in excess of R500 000 and could reach up to R100 million, with some of the vessel having on-board freezing capacity. Capital outlay for accessible fishing such as oyster pickers was significantly lower at about R10 000, as they did not require access to a vessel but only access to transport. Line fisheries needed capital outlay in excess of R15 000. These figures had been derived from various social and economic studies.
Dr Mayekiso said the Department would be finalising the line fish policy within the next few weeks, after which they would be published for comment.
The meeting was adjourned.
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