Convention on Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources In South East Atlantic Ocean: briefing


23 October 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

23 October 2007

Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West), Mr L Zita (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) Presentation
Convention on the Management and Conservation of Fishery Resources in the South East Atlantic Ocean (Contract)

Audio recording of meeting

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism briefed the two Committees on the Convention. He gave a background on management of fish stocks in the high seas, and the effects of not having protective law of the seas. He discussed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and its impact on coastal states. It had been found that although countries were declaring and working well within Exclusive Economic Zones, this did not extend to highly migratory stocks, and therefore Regional Fisheries Management Organisations were established. The South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation, of which South Africa was a Member, had adopted a Convention. The Department briefly described the structure and functioning of the Organisation’s Commission. The Department noted that South Africa’s signing of the Convention now required ratification by parliament.

Questions by Members related to the Commission’s structure, the levels of skills in its committees, the trust placed in other countries and signatories, the benefits to South Africa of ratification, capacity to enforce the Convention, the consequences of not ratifying.

Convention on Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources in the South East Atlantic Ocean: (the Convention): Briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)

Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General (DDG): DEAT gave a brief background on how South Africa managed fish stocks in the high seas. Historically there was open access to the sea, with people being able to fish anywhere. This was known to nations as freedom of the seas. This led to difficulties in over-exploitation and therefore the international community passed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This framework was used internationally in order to manage fish stocks and oceans. Dr Mayekiso explained to the Committee the definition of ‘straddling stocks’, as fish or marine life that could be found in the waters of two countries or in waters of two countries and high seas, and that were not limited to one Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). An exclusive economic zone, in which the coastal States were to promote the objectives of optimum utilisation of living resources, was the territorial water of 12 nautical miles included in the EEZ of 200 nautical miles.

Prior to the UNCLOS, nations would unilaterally declare their own EEZs. These, however, were not adequate for coping with straddling and migratory fish stocks, and in 1994 there was an international agreement, calling for creation of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, (RMFOs), to serve as appropriate structures. There were 17 RMFOs in existence, including the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) is one of them. The aim was to ensure proper management of fish resources in high seas, and therefore the freedom of the high seas was being curtailed by ensuring that those countries along the coast, together with those countries that wanted to fish in a particular area had to meet, make an agreement and form a regional fisheries organisation.

The objectives of SEAFO included ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources on the high seas, other than highly migratory stocks, found in the South East Atlantic Ocean beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. The contracting parties to SEAFO included the coastal states of Angola, Namibia, United Kingdom and South Africa, and other countries known to fish in the SEAFO area, which were Spain, Portugal, Russia, Cyprus, Mauritius, Iceland, USA, Republic of Korea, Japan, Poland, European Union and Norway. A Convention was adopted and came into force in April 2003. The Convention called for the establishment of a Commission, which would manage the fisheries, as well as formulating and adopting conservation and management measures. The Commission functioned via a secretariat and two principal committees. The secretariat performed any duties delegated by the commission. The scientific committee had the responsibility of compiling statistical data to ensure the best scientific advice was available. The compliance committee was responsible for establishing appropriate compliance mechanisms for effective monitoring, control surveillance and enforcement.

Mr Mayekiso illustrated the importance of the Convention and the RMFOs by giving a factual account of the conflict between Spain and Canada through lack of RMFOs. He said that the benefits of the Convention were a management regime going beyond exclusive zones, the adoption of an eco-system approach, and opportunities for gaining access to resources in high seas, jointly negotiating quotas and scientific assessments, job creation and economic growth. The benefits to the coastal states outweighed the costs.

The Department therefore was requesting both Committees to support the ratification of the SEAFO Convention by Parliament.

Mr G Morgan (DA) stated that the Convention was very important. He remarked that conventions like this required trust and co-operation. He asked if the Department had any concerns about the levels of skill in the scientific committees, and if South Africa’s own management skills and scientific knowledge lived up to the standards of others.

Dr Mayekiso said that it was clear from the objectives of SEAFO that South Africa originally did not trust other contracting parties, which was why the Convention was clear that other parties must stay away from South Africa’s EEZ. However, the relationship between states had improved over time, and trust was built. Japan remained a major concern, as it had not ratified the conventions. He commented that it was difficult to answer the question on the skills level, because the science field was so vast. However, he was satisfied that the Department’s own marine scientists were well qualified and did not require assistance from other countries.

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked how the Department had reached the conclusion that the benefits to the coastal states outweighed the costs.

Dr Mayekiso said that most of the deep-water species were highly sought after because they generated substantial money. If unregulated fishing companies were able to find the stocks, they would over-fish them in order to get more profit. The controls of the Convention therefore were extremely valuable to the coastal states.

A Member asked if the Department had the capacity to enforce the Convention, and whether there were costs in doing so.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) asked if the Convention was incorporated into the legislative framework of the United Nations (UN). He asked what enforcement measures applied if countries did not comply with the convention , and what was the situation with countries that refused to sign the convention.

Dr Mayekiso replied that the enforcement capacity of the international regime was generally weak. There were some creative ways to enforce compliance, such as the Top State Control, which stated that no vessels with fish were allowed to dock in a harbour unless they were signatories to the Convention. It was decided that all RMFOs should subject themselves to a performance review; to make sure they abided by the United Nations agreement.

Mr D Maluleke (ANC) asked what were the consequences of not ratifying

Dr Mayekiso
said that the ability to fish would be compromised, as the states would be prevented from fishing in certain areas.

The Chairperson asked about the consequences of the conflict between Canada and Spain. South Africa was concerned about Japan not ratifying, and he asked how he department would deal with these complications

Dr Mayekiso stated that there were no consequences to the conflict mentioned, other than some diplomatic issues, as everyone had sympathised with the Canadians. The Japanese failure to sign had resulted in an ultimatum from SEAFO, and this unfortunately tended to break down solidarity

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked whether, in terms of hake fisheries, there was scientific data on the effects of EEZs and migratory stocks.

Dr Mayekiso said that there were impacts of catches outside EEZ, but they had not been quantified. EEZ being applied within states over their waters did allow for more control

Ms M Oliphant (ANC) wanted to know more about the structure of the commission, asking whether the secretariat was a permanent structure, and what it comprised.

Dr Mayekiso said that the secretariat was appointed for a term of four years. There was an executive secretary and three other assistants.

Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC) proposed that the Convention be ratified, and was seconded by Ms H Matlanyane (ANC)

The Committee resolved to propose ratification of the Convention to parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.



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