State of Fisheries Report; Working For Programmes; with Deputy Minister

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

28 March 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee received a briefing by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) on the state of South African fisheries and the “Working For” programmes --Working for Forests; Fisheries; Fire; Land; Waste; and Water.

The Department said it updated the fisheries status report every second year, and the report being presented was the most recent update. It was still waiting for a hard copy of the report to be finalised. The presentation included an overview of the status of marine fishery resources, focusing on the key resources -- hake, small pelagic fishes, abalone, West Coast rock lobster, demersal sharks and linefish. The environmental programmes branch in the Department presented on the "Working For" programmes, indicating its achievements against its annual performance plan (APP) indicators by the end of the third quarter.

With the fisheries presentation, a Member expressed shock at the amount of abalone legally fished, compared to the “excessively high” amount of poached abalone. The DFFE was asked if a study had been done on the number of recreational fishing permits issued, and the impact on shark population sizes in South Africa. Some of the fish that South Africa imposed bans on catching were the ones which the line fisherman used to be catching. The Department had mentioned several requirements that had to be complied with, but did South Africa have the capacity to monitor the regulations and restrictions that it imposed?

Given the dire state of abalone and West Coast rock lobster stocks, Members questioned why those species were being allocated to commercial fishing companies, who “mercilessly” harvested those stocks from the ocean. A Member also observed that China was investing more in aquaculture, and it assessed the growth of its aquaculture every five years. Developing South Africa’s aquaculture industry was one way of reducing the strain on the oceans. Additionally, it was felt that the Committee had also not been appraised of the role South African hatcheries should be playing in increasing fish stocks.

Other issues raised include the management process for tuna; whether the Department could tell the Committee about its most effective interventions for reducing overfishing, and promoting resource recovery in South African fisheries; what the accuracy of the fishery stock surveys were, as far as the marine living resources were concerned; how confident the Department was about poaching statistics, particularly those involving foreign vessels; how successful the Working on Waste programme was, which aimed to create sustainable livelihoods through the recycling of waste?

The Committee said it was aware that Working for Water was a globally known conservation programme, and asked whether the Department had succeeded in completely eradicating certain alien species. How many species had it eradicated thus far? Did it have time frames to deal with their eradication?

Meeting report

The Chairperson observed that the Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Ms Maggie Sotyu, was leading the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) delegation.

The Portfolio Committee would be briefed on the state of South African fisheries, and on the “Working For” programmes -- Working For Forests; Fisheries; Fire; Land; Waste; and Water.

The Deputy Minister (DM) advised the Committee that she had another meeting at the same time as this one. It was a special meeting that had been called after she had already confirmed her attendance at the Committee’s meeting.

Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General (DG), DFFE, introduced the Department's delegation. She was accompanied by Ms Sue Middleton, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Fisheries Management, DFFE; and Dr Kim Prochazka, Chief Director: Fisheries Research and Development, DFFE.

Status of South African marine fishery resources

Dr Prochazka said that the Department updated the marine fishery resources status report every second year, and the report being presented was the most recent update. The Department was still waiting for the hard copy of the report to be finalised. The presentation contained the following:

• Overview of the status of marine fishery resources;

• Focus on key resources -- hake; small pelagic fishes (sardine and anchovy); abalone; West Coast rock lobster; demersal sharks; and linefish.

• Concluding remarks


A graphic was shown that indicated fishing pressure and stock status. The red block indicated fishing stocks where there was high fishing pressure, and where the stock status was poor. The orange block indicated that stock status was good, but fishing pressure was too high. The green block indicated stocks where the fishing pressure was optimal, and where the stock status was good. Dr Prochazska remarked that seeing many resources in the green block was encouraging. The yellow block indicated that the stock status was poor, but the fishing pressure was low. That was an area where the Department expected to see some recovery of resources.

Key resources:


Dr Prochazska said the value of catches of shallow and deep water hakes caught by hake trawl (inshore and offshore), longline and handline, and midwater trawl as bycatch, equalled that of all other SA marine fisheries combined.

Hake trawl was the only South African fishery currently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, (MSC) and had recently received its third recertification. MSC certification gained access to European markets, which ensured the industry's economic viability. Certification carried with it responsibilities for the client (industry) and the government management authority (Fisheries management branch). This included regular surveys of abundance, reliable estimation of catches, regular scientific assessment of resource status, harvest control rules or an operational management procedure to determine annual catch limits, independent scientific observers, adequate monitoring, control and enforcement, measures to reduce ecological impact, such as damage to the seabed, and limiting the bycatch of sensitive species.

The most recent hake stock assessments indicated a continued steady increase in spawning biomass for M. capensis (shallow water hake), but a recent decrease for M. paradoxus (deep water hake).

Both species were, however, estimated to lie well above maximum sustainable yield levels. The current hake optimal management procedure (OMP) has responded to the input data by reducing the total allowable catch TAC by 5% for 2022.

Small pelagic fishes

This was South Africa’s largest fishery, with catches dominated by anchovy. Sardine catches were at an all-time low (5 300 tons) in 2019, but there has been a slight recovery since. A total of 274 000 t of anchovy, redeye round herring and sardine were caught in 2022. This was below both the long-term (333 000 t) and short-term (287 000 t) averages.

Anchovy abundance increased in 2020. There was no survey result in 2021, and survey results for 2022 were still to be finalised.

There was a small increase in sardine abundance in 2019 and 2020. However, there were no survey result in 2021, and the survey result for 2022 was still to be finalised. The sardine resource remained of concern and necessitated continued precautionary management.


Abalone had suffered major declines in abundance despite best efforts at management, such as the closure of recreational fishery, drastic total allowable catch reductions, area closures, and area management systems. The recreational fishery was closed in 2003, and commercial fishery in 2008. Commercial fishery was conditionally re-opened in 2010.

Available updated data did not indicate any resource recovery, and it was projected that the resource would continue to decline if current levels of illegal harvesting continued. Recovery may still be possible in some fishing areas if major reductions in illegal harvesting could be achieved.

West Coast Rock Lobster

The fishery generates around R500 million per year, and employs about 4 300 people. It had traditionally focused on the West Coast, but resource shifts in the 1990s resulted in three new areas opening up east of Cape Hangklip.

The fishery consisted of the following sectors: offshore commercial (traps); inshore commercial (hoop nets); interim relief/small scale; and recreational.

Declines in catches since the 1950s-1960s had had a number of causes, including:

- Changes in fishing methods

- Stricter control of catches

- Declines in resource abundance

- Increase in illegal harvesting

- Reduced growth rates

- Environmental changes

The resource was experiencing overfishing, and was currently at 1.3% of its pristine levels pre-1910.

Demersal sharks

Soupfin sharks were currently experiencing overfishing, but the status of smooth-hound sharks had improved in the past decade. These sharks were caught in multiple fisheries, including demersal shark longline, linefish and inshore trawl fisheries. Further management measures were being put in place to improve the status of these resources.


The most recent stock assessments indicated that reductions in commercial fishing efforts implemented from 2003 onwards had resulted in the partial recovery of some species, such as the slinger, santer and carpenter. However, other important stocks, such as silver kob, were still being overfished, given the cumulative impact of the line fishery and inshore trawl fishery on this species.

Snoek and yellowtail assessment suggest that the stock was optimally exploited. Catches of yellowtail and snoek were highly variable, as they depended on the availability of these nomadic species in nearshore areas.

Current management measures were insufficient for some severely depleted linefish, such as red steenbras, dageraad and white stumpnose. The slow translation of scientific recommendations into management regulations was a concern. Illegal activities, such as drone fishing, further impacted over-exploited species such as silver kob.

Mitigating measures

Dr Prochazska listed the following mitigating measures which were being implemented: 

  • Continuous monitoring of stock status;
  • Continuous monitoring of catches;
  • Adaptive management to ensure sustainable catches through annual adjustment of the total allowable catch (TAC), total allowable effort (TAE) and other management measures encapsulated in permit conditions;
  • West Coast rock lobster anti-poaching strategy;
  • National strategy and action plan to prevent and combat the trade in illegally harvested South African abalone;
  • National plan of action for sharks;
  • Linefish state of emergency and protocol;
  • Implementation of small-scale fishery and support to small-scale fishers;
  • Promotion of aquaculture and alternative livelihoods.

Dr Prochazska concluded the presentation by saying many resources were sustainably managed.

Some resources, particularly nearshore resources, were overfished and subject to overfishing.

Interventions to reduce overfishing could lead to resource recovery. Examples included deep water hake (Merluccius paradoxus), South Coast rock lobster, and some linefish species.


Mr D Bryant (DA) appreciated the detailed data in the presentation. He hoped that the Committee would get fisheries data on a more regular basis. The presenter mentioned that those fisheries studies were intended to be conducted on an annual basis. It would be helpful if the Committee could get reports annually, since it cleared up a number of questions. Such a report also provided room for new questions to be answered.

He noticed a spike in the population of anchovies and sardines around 2000 to 2006. What had the reason been for that? There was an ongoing decrease in lobster growth, which was shown in a chart. It was mentioned that one of the reasons for that was environmental factors. West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) was one of the most poached marine species. What environmental factors could be attributed to a decrease in growth, and could it be attributed to poaching as well?

With red steenbras and dageraad, was there anything that could be done aside from restrictions on catch to increase those populations? The dageraad looked like it was “on its way out”. Was there anything that the Committee could be lobbying for to try and assist in growing that population? It was “staggering” to see the amount of abalone fished legally compared to the “excessively high” amount of poached abalone. He appreciated the various poaching busts that had taken place recently. Even with the busts, it did not seem to make a difference. Was the majority of poached abalone going to China? Where was it going if it was not going to China? Were steps being taken to put increased pressure on the Chinese government to assist in combating abalone smuggling into its country?

Ms H Winkler (DA) asked about shark species. For example, there was a limitation to one species of shark that was allowed to be caught per day by a recreational fisher. Such a fisher had a bag limit of about ten. Had there been a study on the number of recreational fishing permits issued, and the impact on shark population sizes in South Africa? Specifically, had such a study looked at species aside from threatened species, such as the soupfin shark and the Great White?

What was the status of monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the TAC and the regulations around the fishing industry? She knew from her own research that that seemed to be an issue because of a strain on resources in the Department.

Lastly, was there a way to mitigate against the increased abalone poaching? What more could be done?

Mr N Singh (IFP) recalled that as a young boy growing up in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), he always heard about shad fishing. Many years later, he realised shad and elf were the same species. There was a closed season for shad, from October/November each year. Have there been recent studies to confirm the effectiveness of that closed season? What had it produced? October/November was known as the spawning season. A number of line fishermen relied on shad, and there was a restriction of four per day. Authorities in KZN could be “quite difficult” when applying the law, which he did not have a problem with, but people had been put in jail for catching five, six or seven shad. Could the Committee have more information on shad? When he was in Cape Town many years ago, when he first started in Parliament, people used to sell elf in Cape Town. But it was the same shad in Durban, and one could not buy it there because it was banned.

When looking at the orange and red sections depicted in the presentation, what kind of restrictions were placed on the inshore trawlers? What was the level of poaching that the Department had been able to identify as the monitoring authority on those kinds of species? He had been told that in the countries of South Africa’s northern neighbours, people would send trawlers to that area and continue poaching. Some of the fish South Africa imposed bans on were ones the line fisherman used to be catching. But there were trawlers at sea taking away “tons” of fish that they were not supposed to catch in those quantities, and they were not supposed to be in South African waters.

Dr Prochazka had mentioned several things that South Africa was required to have – did South Africa have the capacity to monitor the regulations and restrictions that it imposed? What was lacking in capacity? He commented that it was good for South Africa to have regulations on catch sizes, species, etc, but was South Africa equipped to observe what was happening out there, both inshore and onshore?

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) observed that having grown up along the coast, especially in Cape Town, fishing was a way of life for many people in the Western Cape. It was more than a livelihood. Currently, it has become a source of desperation, because indigenous fishers have been denied access to the sea because of dwindling fishing stocks. The irony was that indigenous fishers were not responsible for the dwindling fishing stocks. There was no way that any number of poachers could take the stocks to those levels. It was caused by big commercial fishing companies. It had been seen how big commercial fishing companies were favoured with the fishing rights allocation process. There was a move for those companies to have a greater share of what remained of South Africa’s fishing stocks. Very little would go to small-scale fishers. The way that small-scale fishing would be managed through co-operatives, this would be almost unworkable. Given the dire state of abalone and WCRL stocks, why were those species being allocated to commercial fishing companies, who “mercilessly” harvested those stocks from the ocean?

There was the narrative that “abalone goes to China”. Abalone was being “poached,” as others had said, by people wanting to survive, and China was providing them with survival. If the Department took abalone and WCRL away from the commercial fishers and gave it to the small-scale fishers, “there would be no poaching.” Such fishers would be able to supply the market and support their families. Government did not care about poor black people. Poachers were being criminalised for wanting to eke out a living for themselves and to take care of their families. China was “investing” more. China did not have the “15-year jackpots” that South Africa had in the fisheries. It was known who was going to win those jackpots, and it did not matter how “bad” Oceana was, it would still be rewarded with a jackpot allocation. As “corrupt” as Oceana was, government would still reward it.

Mr Paulsen went on to say that China was investing more in aquaculture, and assessed the growth of its aquaculture every five years. It was gradually reducing the amount of fish allowed to be caught in the open sea. It was increasing the amount of fish being contributed by aquaculture. That was where South Africa was lagging behind when it came to aquaculture. The Department was sending people to Chinese universities, but he doubted if this was because the Chinese had the “most advanced” aquaculture industry. That industry was producing more than 50% of the world’s aquaculture produce.

Developing South Africa’s aquaculture industry was one way of reducing the strain on the oceans. It would also force fishing companies to invest money elsewhere. The large companies were the ones that were responsible for destroying South Africa’s oceans. Why was the Department not compelling those companies to invest more in the aquaculture industry? The Committee had also not been appraised of the role South African hatcheries should be playing in increasing fish stocks. How much was the Department investing in those hatcheries to ensure that all played their part in increasing fishing stocks, instead of limiting indigenous fishers, and allowing commercial fishing companies to “plunder [South African] oceans for profits”? All had to pay the price for those effects on the oceans, especially indigenous recreational fishers.

Mr Paulsen also asked about the state of South Africa’s aquaculture industry, as well as the state of the hatcheries. He suggested doing an oversight visit to the aquaculture projects, so that the Committee could see that such projects really existed. The Department would come and tell the Committee “nice stories”, but a few years ago, the Committee had visited two aquaculture projects in the Eastern Cape, and there had been nothing there but big ditches in the ground. A lot of money had been spent, but there was no aquaculture activity at all.

Ms A Weber (DA) referred to the red block (where fishing pressure was high and the stock status was a problem), and asked about the management process for tuna. There were, for example, two tuna species in the red block (yellowfin tuna and big-eye tuna), and that concerned her because tuna was one of the most sought-after fish -- people ate tinned tuna, and it was healthy. What would the Department do to ensure that the stocks did not decrease further? Was there a place to grow tuna? What was the management process to increase tuna stocks? While Mr Singh had referred to poaching, she wanted to ask specifically what the plan was to ensure that South Africa would always have tuna, especially with the high demand for it. She also wanted to know how the Department would ensure an increase in tuna if it did not stop the fishing.

In 2017, the fishery climate change task team recommended seven points. How many points had been completed, and how far were those processes? If they were not complete, then why not? Could the Department give Members a list of how far it was, and when the due dates were?

Had there been a tender process for a fisheries observer programme? It was essential to have such a programme. Was there a plan for the tender process? Was there a plan to have an observer programme? If not, why not?

Could the Committee have a list of freshwater aquaculture, not just at the coastal cities, but inland as well? Ms Weber recalled that there was “quite a lot” of aquaculture in Mpumalanga and the Free State. What species were being farmed inland? Could the Committee have a list of those species to do oversight? Such oversight would ensure that the Committee would not arrive at a place where there seemed to be activity, but money had gone in and nothing was happening.

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) asked if the Department could tell the Committee about its most effective interventions for reducing overfishing and promoting resource recovery in South African fisheries. How could these interventions be scaled up to address broader sustainability challenges?

The Chairperson asked what the accuracy of the fishery stock surveys was as far as the marine living resources were concerned. How confident was the Department about poaching statistics, particularly by foreign vessels? Had it ever encountered such instances? If the Department had not, then was it sure that such a thing was not taking place? Could it assure South Africans that what was happening to the rhino population was not happening in South African waters?

DFFE's response

Dr Prochazka responded to the question on the spikes in sardine and anchovy populations, and said those had been natural fluctuations in those populations. Small pelagic fish were very short-lived, and their populations were highly variable. A slide in the presentation showed a time series of small pelagic fish going back to 1949. One could see that the anchovy population was “up and down and all over the place”, but the sardine population looked like it had two very significant peaks. The Department had tried to look at those peaks and correlate them with environmental variables, but without success. Most environmental processes, such as an El Niño event, happened on a much shorter timescale. The peaks in the sardine population were about 40 years apart. The Department had not necessarily found any way of explaining those from an environmental perspective.

With the WCRL growth, it was very difficult to try and find correlations between growth and what was happening in the environment. The Department had looked at many factors but had not found anything that correlated in a way that it would have any confidence in it. One of the explanations provided in the past had been that the WRCL had a minimum size limit, and as they were caught, they were sorted on board the vessel, and then the ones that were too small were put back into the sea. In that sorting process, the lobsters suffered quite a bit of damage – limbs and feelers got broken off, etc. When those animals went back in the water, they had to regrow those limbs, so they put energy into regrowing those limbs rather than growing in size. As the population got smaller and smaller, fishers would be fishing a greater proportion of the population, and a larger proportion of animals were going through the sorting grid and dealing with the damage. There was no way to test if that explanation was indeed the correct one. The Department looked at the growth and did growth estimates every year, which went into the stock assessment for WCRL.

There were already a lot of management measures in place for red steenbras and dageraad. The difficulty that the Department had was that to change the regulations required a full socio-economic impact assessment system (SEIAS) process, which was very time-consuming. It was thus very difficult for the Department to react to put those measures in place.

On illegally-caught abalone, a Member had observed that the busts were not making a difference, and Dr Prochazka agreed, because, from the perspective of the abalone resource, what was important was that the resource stayed in the water. Catching loads of abalone that had already been removed from the water did not help the resource in any way.

On recreational fishing permits, and the impact of recreational fishing: The Department knew how many permits were sold via the South African Post Office each year. The impact was difficult to gauge directly. At the moment, information from the recreational line fishery was quite limited. As Members were aware, many people were engaging in recreational line fishing, and such people were spread over a long coastline. To try and monitor closely what those people were catching was difficult. It was very hard to gauge the impact accurately. The Department usually relied on once-off surveys that were done every few years to try and gauge that impact.

She did not have in-depth knowledge of the shad closed season, and had tried to find information while the question was being asked.

She acknowledged that the inshore trawl did catch a number of bycatch species, including some linefish species. The Department had estimated what the fishery caught, because it received that information from the fishery itself. The Department knew what the impact was, and it had a programme with the inshore trawl fishery to try and limit the bycatch to certain levels. If the fishery caught too much bycatch, it had to move and start fishing elsewhere, etc. There were some precautions in place in that fishery.

Tuna was managed by regional fisheries management agencies. There were three that South Africa participated in -- the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (which took care of both sides of South Africa), and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. Those were the forums where assessments were done, because the agencies did region-based assessments, taking information from all of the forums in those countries. There were then regional allocations, so it was not a process that South Africa did itself. South Africa inputted its information, and it had scientists in those groups, and the Department participated in those commissions to ensure that South Africa got its fair share.

Ms Weber had also asked about stopping fishing from allowing recovery. Usually, the Department preferred not to close the fishery. One would get the fastest recovery of the resource if one closed the fishery entirely. Since fishing was an economic activity, that was “not the way to go”. There was a trade-off between taking the lower recovery levels over a longer time and keeping the fishery open. The Department tried its best not to close fisheries because it had far too much of an economic impact.

Dr Prochazka confirmed that the observer programme had come to an end. The Department had been unable to reinstate it again because of budgetary requirements. It was expensive to have a lot of scientific observers out in the field all the time. The Department rethinking how to restart. In some fisheries, there was a “user pays” observer programme. For example, the hake deep-sea trawl was doing that to meet its MSC requirements. The horse mackerel midwater trawl fishery was required to pay for observers on their vessels for 100% of their fishing operations. The Department was looking at different models of reintroducing observer programmes in different sectors. It did not have to be a one-size fits all solution. The Department needed to look at what worked best in the different sectors.

Responding on the most effective interventions for recovery, and how these could be scaled up, she said one would get the strongest recovery of a resource if one stopped all harvesting, but that was not what the Department wanted to do. It needed to be pragmatic, and there needed to be more nuanced discussions of how it wanted different resources to recover, over what time period, and to what level, etc. Such factors were very dependent on each resource, because all responded differently.

It was hard to give a single answer on how confident the Department was in its assessments, because factors varied. There were some resources for which the Department had a lot of information, and it thus had very strong assessments it knew it could rely on. For other resources, it had less information, so it perhaps had less confidence in those assessments. Regarding the estimates of poaching, that was always difficult because it was illegal. Getting information on that activity and its impact of that activity was very hard. With WCRL, for example, the Department’s estimates of poaching were currently somewhere between 200 and 800 tonnes per year, which was quite a broad range. The Department could not pin that down with the information available to it at that moment.

With abalone, the Department had more refined figures than that, since it had been monitoring abalone poaching for longer. It used information from its compliance directorate on confiscated abalone and from a non-governmental organisation (NGO) on the discrepancies between abalone exports from South Africa and imports into receiving countries. The Department had more than one source of information that helped it get a bit more confidence on where it was with the abalone poaching estimates.

Ms Middleton confirmed that China, Hong Kong, and the Far East were the main buyers of illegally-caught abalone and WCRL. The Department had previously attempted to engage with its Chinese colleagues, particularly through the BRICS forum, but that was an initiative and effort that required more focus.

At the end of February, the Department conducted a successful, week-long abalone anti-poaching workshop. It brought together all the role players, including the poachers, communities, commercial fishers, small-scale farmers fishers, government, NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs). The Department tried to get all stakeholders involved in the abalone fishery together, and to develop an integrated strategy that dealt not just with enforcement and compliance efforts, but also looked at management and international issues, including trying to understand the international value chain.

She observed that abalone (and increasingly WCRL) poaching was a syndicated crime. The community-based poachers were at the bottom of that illicit value chain and were not seeing the profits of the illicit trade. Nor were average South Africans seeing such profits, because no tax was being paid on those exports. In the coming week, the Department would be releasing to the public the strategy developed by the stakeholders for comment. It hoped the strategy would be an attempt to focus not just on the poachers, but to develop an integrated approach to dealing with the problem entirely.

Responding on the extent to which the Department was able to enforce adherence to TACs, TAEs and other permit conditions, she said it had its own compliance capacity in-house via its fishing control inspectors. The Department did not have enough human resources; on average, its inspectors covered far too much coastline to be effective. One answer would be to increase the capacity, but government did not have the additional funds. That was why the Department had developed an integrated enforcement strategy via Operation Phakisa, where it was working with other law enforcement agencies. The Department would not be able to deal with the issues of enforcement and illegal trade on its own.

Within the “Working For” programmes, the Department was in the process of appointing a number of catch data monitors through the Working for Fisheries programme. The monitors would be officials deployed along the coastline at all the harbours and landing sites. In the programme, the focus would be on accurately recording the fish landed, and eliminating possible under-reporting of fish catches. This programme had been in place a few years ago that fell by the wayside, and the Department had restarted it. The Department thought it would go a long way in contributing to the enforcement and compliance strategy and the accurate recording of the fish that were actually landed.

Ms Middleton recalled that in a previous Committee meeting, the issue of sending students to Stirling University in Scotland for training had been addressed, as it had been reported that it had the best veterinary postgraduate course in the world. The Department also had agreements with China, whose particular strength was in production systems. It had a number of joint ventures with China, and the Chinese were a part of the Department’s Gariep aquaculture demonstration and training centre. Members were welcome to pay a visit to the Gariep training centre as part of an oversight visit.

Ms Middleton did not understand Ms Weber's question about climate change and the seven points in the report. She was not familiar with the document or study that Ms Weber had been referring to. If she could elaborate, the Department would try to answer that question.

The Department was not able to provide Ms Weber with a list of all the freshwater species and where they were farmed. It would submit that list to her in writing.

The Department would also submit in writing an answer to Mr Singh’s question on the shad closed season, particularly in KZN.

Regarding poaching by foreign vessels, foreign vessels were not allowed to fish in South African waters at all. Only vessels flying the South African flag could fish in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Department was fairly confident that very limited foreign fishing was happening in South African waters. It was able to track all vessels that entered South African waters, and it was able to monitor the speed at which vessels were travelling, whether they had nets deployed, and whether they were fishing or not fishing. It was not illegal for foreign vessels to pass through South African waters -- it was called safe passage, and they had to have South Africa’s permission to do so. For example, one had to pass through South African waters to get to Namibia from Mozambique. Ms Middleton was not saying that there was no illegal fishing happening by foreign vouchers, but the Department was fairly confident that it was on a very small scale if there was such activity.

Abalone ranching, seeding, and putting fish back into the water were one of the focus areas that had come up in the abalone workshop. It was something that the Department would be taking forward. There was quite a large and successful abalone ranching project in the Eastern Cape, and the Department wanted to look at rolling out ranching in other areas. Small abalone would then be put back into South African waters. This was happening through the Department’s aquaculture component regarding fingerlings and hatcheries. There were successful hatchery and fingerling farms.

Ms Weber referred to her question on climate change and fisheries. She said that page 123 of the report that the Department had presented had stated that there was a team that was currently composed of four scientists from the Chief Directorate: Fisheries Research and Development – Dr Jean Githaiga (Chair), Dr Carl van der Lingen, Dr Steve Lamberth and Dr Dawit Yemane -- and two scientists from the Chief Directorate: Marine Aquaculture and Economic Development – Dr Grant Pitcher and Ms Michelle Pretorius. She would put that question into writing.

Mr Singh was happy to get responses to his questions in writing.

The Chairperson asked if Ms Middleton could explain the link to other law enforcement agencies, specifically those responsible for the vessels coming into South African waters. It related to the question on the Department’s confidence about the foreign vessels fishing in South African seas. The Committee had been told this was illegal, but what were the tools the Department used to ensure no illegal fishing? It had said that it could be at a very low scale if it was happening. He asked for more information on the Department’s links with whoever was responsible for ensuring no fishing by foreign vessels. He asked the Department to include that in its response in writing.

Ms Middleton agreed that the Department would do that.

“Working For” Programmes

Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Deputy Director General (DDG): Environmental Programmes, DFFE, presented said that the Department's environmental programmes portfolio included:

  • Working for Water;
  • Working for Wetlands;
  • Working on Fire;
  • Working for Ecosystems.

There were also various branch collaborations within the Department.

Biodiversity and conservation included people and parks; the biodiversity economy; Working for Land; greening and open space management.

Chemicals and waste management included Working on Waste.

Oceans and coasts included Working for the Coast

The youth empowerment and development programme was a collaboration between the following branches: biodiversity and conservation; chemicals and waste management; climate change and air quality; fisheries management; regulatory compliance and sector monitoring; and oceans and coasts.

[Please see the presentation for details.]

"Working for" programmes: Performance by end of Quarter 3

The Department had the following annual performance plan (APP) indicators:

• Number of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs created: 54% achieved;

• Number of work opportunities created: 60% -- 60% for women and 55% for youth;

• Number of participants who completed accredited training programmes:127% achieved;

• Number of hectares receiving follow-up clearing of invasive plant species: 85% achieved;

• Number of wetlands under rehabilitation: 123% achieved;

• Number of kilometres of accessible coastline cleaned: 91% achieved;

• Percentage of wildfires suppressed: 100% achieved;

• Number of biodiversity infrastructure buildings and accommodation units constructed or renovated: 100% achieved; and

• Number of overnight visitor staff accommodation units constructed: 100% achieved.

Environmental programmes: 2023/24

At the end of quarter three, the branch had spent R2.175 billion. For the next financial year, a budget of R3. 271 billion had been allocated.

Dr Mkhize highlighted that during the course of 2022/23, the Department, and the branch in particular, had undergone a reorganisation of its structure. The intention of reorganising the structure was for the branch to revisit and address inefficiencies that came with how it was structured, and how it was approaching and executing projects and contract management. As such, the allocation for 2023/24 reflected that now, instead of having natural resources management and environmental protection and infrastructure programmes, environmental programmes had been reorganised into three different regions, and also organised in terms of sector coordination and quality management, as well as the Office of the DDG. The changes made through the reorganisation of the structure meant that environmental programmes could engage at a provincial level with its stakeholders better. It also enabled the Department to assess and track performance. Unlike before, each director would be responsible for a province, where a province could have several directors. 

Programme 6: 2023/24 annual performance plan targets

The output indicators were the same as those mentioned above in relation to the APP.

Dr Mkhize then gave a breakdown of the targets for each programme in the 2022/23 financial year, which included FTE jobs, work opportunities and equity targets. The budget and outputs for the programmes, Working for Forests and Working for Fisheries, were also presented.

[Please see the presentation for details.]

Reporting on the progress made in addressing challenges involving contract and project management which were related to significant findings by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), her solutions were based on an audit action plan, implementing standard operating procedures, contract and project management training, and a change from the pre-payment system.

Progress to date has been made with the implementation of the audit action plan, finalisation of environmental programme (EP) standard operating procedures, formal contract and project management training approved and in progress for senior and middle management, and payment for goods and services delivered was in place.

Solutions for under-performance in the DFFE have led to:

• An increased role of DFFE entities ;

• Partnerships with provincial government and conservation entities;

• Partnerships with local government, in alignment with the sectors local government support strategy.

Progress to date has seen the increased role of DFFE entities being implemented, partnerships engagements activated, but with no joint projects yet; and partnership with local municipalities activated and under implementation on cleaning and greening projects.


Ms Weber said the "Working For" programmes were excellent. Working for Water was her favourite programme. How did the Department choose where to work? Was the Department involved with Hartbeespoort Dam and Roodeplaat Dam, as they struggled with invasive plants? In the past, the expanded public works programme (EPWP) workers worked for about two months, and removed plants manually. With rowing events on dams, she was unsure if the Department was managing the invasive plants. Did the Department use biological agents that the [name unclear 2:14:11] was using? Was it working closely with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) on invasive plants? Where was the Department working, and what kind of invasive plants was it working on?

The Working for Wetlands programme was good; she had asked questions about that in previous meetings. The Department’s restoration of wetlands was very important, and she appreciated that work.

With Working for Water, how closely was the Department working with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS)? The DWS sometimes budgeted for removing invasive plants at Roodeplaat Dam, which had become “a struggle” between the two departments.

It was good that the Department had created a number of work opportunities – were these temporary or permanent opportunities? How long had those lasted? A work opportunity was something that would last, because South Africa was in an unemployment crisis.

The Department had mentioned that 2 116 km of coastline had been cleaned. That was “amazing,” but wherever there was cleaning, if one went back a few months later, the area was just as polluted as it used to be. Did the Department have a plan in place to maintain the areas it cleaned? 2 116 km of coastline was a large area, so was something in place to ensure that the pollution did not happen there again, otherwise what was the use of cleaning?

With Working for Forests, the Department had spoken about the risk of invasive species. Was it the responsibility of Working for Forests to try and get rid of the shot hole borer beetle? It was a danger to both forests and towns, and residential areas. The Department’s job was to increase biodiversity. One of the things that the beetles did was to decrease biodiversity. Whose responsibility was it, and if it was the Department's, where was it with that?

Mr Singh asked how the Department identified where the Working for Projects should be located. Who did the Department work with to ensure those programmes became a reality – was it with individuals, NGOs, government departments, or municipalities? How sustainable were the programmes? He saw the Working for People working all over the country. People would do something, and then nothing else would happen for six months. If one was getting rid of invasive plants, then they would grow again. What stipends were being paid? Who monitored and evaluated the efficacy of the workers? Members had heard of programmes where people sat under trees, and basked in the sun -- the "Working For" programmes just became a way of ensuring that the government employed people rather than being monitored. Did the Department monitor programmes, or did it have management companies? He recalled that some programmes did use management companies to monitor programmes.

Mr Singh also asked about the Working for Forests programme. The Department had said that 120 000 trees were planted, and greening was done. How many of those trees that were planted were fruit trees? Would the Department consider planting fruit trees, since they were a food source for communities where those trees were planted? How did tree planting work?

Ms Winkler asked about branch collaboration. There was the Working on Waste programme, which aimed at creating sustainable livelihoods through waste recycling and the “Good Green Deeds - District approach”, which supported municipalities. The collaboration between the spheres of government in trying to provide adequate support to local governments for waste management had always been an issue of contention – the separation at source, how landfills were being managed, what capacity municipalities were given, etc. Such collaboration had been an issue in terms of what resources were available. With the “Good Green Deeds - District approach”, with which municipalities was the Department working? Was it a pilot programme? Had there been previous successes against which one could measure the programme? How did it incorporate waste pickers into the circular waste economy, considering there were so many economic opportunities to gain from sustainable waste management?

Ms Gantsho asked about the Working for Water programme – what invasive species were being managed? The Department had not given enough information on those invasive species. There were many different types of invasive species

The Department had mentioned that the Working for Forests programme aimed to refurbish three nurseries. For her, it seemed like a very low number. Considering the programme’s overall goals, what was the rationale behind that decision? Why had the Department chosen only three nurseries?

The Chairperson asked about the role of the Department in creating work opportunities in local communities. What did the number of "Working For" opportunities mean regarding the number of days a person could work? What was the duration of employment? What happened beyond the provision of employment? Did the Department have cases where it could say that community members who came to a programme as unskilled labourers evolved into owners or contractors? The Committee was aware that Working for Water was a globally known conservation programme that former Minister Kader Asmal pioneered. It had subsumed many programmes that had since developed their own "Working For" programmes and identities. Since then, has the Department succeeded in completely eradicating certain alien species? If yes, how many species have it eradicated thus far? Did it have time frames to deal with eradicating those invasive alien species?

Department's responses

Dr Mkhize responded that there was a process for selecting Working for Water work sites. The Department considered various aspects, such as threats to water resources, and other aspects related to the invasive species themselves. Additionally, when it reported on work opportunities, it reported not only on work opportunities but also on FTEs. The latter was related to the duration of the employment.

She confirmed that the Department worked closely with the DWS on the Hartbeespoort and Roodeplaat dams. Its approach to managing water hyacinth, for example, was not on manual removal only, but it also used biological control methods, for example, in the Hartbeespoort Dam. It also consistently raised the issue of the impact of the water hyacinth on water quality. The DWS dealt with water quality. Where the Department used biological control, it worked with research institutions. Firstly, it had to check that the agents it released were doing what they were supposed to do. It also needed to implement the biological controls in a way that did not solve one problem by creating another problem.

Regarding the areas of coastline cleaned, the Department was following a partnership approach, where it partnered not only with its entities, but also with its municipalities as well. It accepted that when it came to cleaning operations, it was highly unlikely that one would find oneself in a situation where one did a once-off clean. That was why the Department prioritised partnerships with the municipalities and entities close to those areas. For example, KZN worked closely with its entity, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

When one looked at the history of the Department, previously, one would be able to say that it had achieved work opportunity targets. Full-time jobs was an area that it had struggled with. That was why in some cases, one would find that the workers were active for only six months or less. One of the areas that the Department was focusing on was to make sure that the way it started implementation on the ground was as much as possible, it started with its participants from the first quarter of the financial year. The Department had been able to do that with its entities, but when it came to other implementers, it had not necessarily been able to achieve that.

Regarding project management oversight, the Department used its own staff, where it had appointed implementing agents. Its staff had to make sure that the implementing agents were working in the areas they were supposed to work in, and also that the quality of the work and any other compliance matters were being attended to. There needed to be compliance with occupational health and safety, and the scope of the vegetation clearing map itself, for example. If it was Dr Mkhize’s project, for example, someone else would independently oversee and assess whether her project was achieving its intended outcomes.

"Good Green Deeds" straddled two branches. The Department could provide a more comprehensive response at a later stage. She could respond on the number of work opportunities created through clearing projects, and on projects where the Department was assisting municipalities with landfill site management and also training. Regarding recycling operations, that was information that she did not have on hand. The Department could provide a more comprehensive response to that.

Mr Ahmed Khan, Director: Operational Support and Planning, DFFE, responded to questions about the selection of projects, and on invasive species projects in particular. Since the inception of the Working for Water programme in 1995, the Department has been working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) as stakeholders in managing invasive species. A lot of data has been built on the location of invasive species and their impact on the landscape. That then filled out the picture of the landscape, where one wanted to deal with invasions that had the most impact. The Department applied the filter where a species had the predominant habitat, water impact, and biodiversity impacts. It was constantly updating its baseline, and refining those priorities regarding where it needed to invest. The current map he could share with the Committee was that there was a much larger footprint of demand for managing degradation in the landscape introduced by invasives, and wetlands and degraded land.

The Department needed to get to those areas and had the resources for that. For example, to get the most value for money, it would start investing at the top of a catchment area, because that was where generally, if dealing with invasion, one could deal with the lighter invasion at the top of a catchment before the invasion spread and became a much bigger problem to deal with. There were around 80 invasive species out of the 771 invasive species overall that had a major impact, which the Department targeted. By “major,” he meant those that posed a significant impact on habitat, native species, and on hydrological systems. He would share the list of 80 species. The invasive plant species were predominantly acacia, wattle, eucalyptus and pine species. Those species had the most deleterious impacts on water resources.

The Department had a good idea of where the most threatened wetlands were, and which ones it needed to intervene in. More resources were needed to have a larger footprint in dealing with that demand. Similarly, the Department looked at avoiding degradation when dealing with land degradation, specifically soil erosion. It invested in areas where there was potential for soil movement to occur before it became a problem, and therefore became a significantly more expensive intervention to deal with. The Department had a number of interventions. For example, in the Cintsa catchment, and other catchments in the Eastern Cape, it looked at rehabilitating those large dongas (gullies) that normally featured in many people’s picture of land degradation.

A multi-pronged set of stakeholders had to deal with the shot hole borer beetle, which could have a major impact on a  number of tree species. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) had taken a group of stakeholders alongside it to participate in the process. The Department had assisted with the method to control the beetle. There was still a lot of research needed on the biological control for the beetle, and the Department was engaging with a range of stakeholders on that issue, and he thought the CDC might also feature in that. The Department was funding many of the biological control research efforts into invasive species.

Ms Matilda Skosana, Chief Director: Information Management and Sector Coordination, DFFE, provided a definition of employment within the EPWP, which was any paid work for any duration of time. The average duration of employment was approximately 80 days. That was due to some of the Department’s programmes having a shorter duration, such as the cleaning and greening programmes, but it also had programmes with a longer employment duration of more than 100 days, such as the Working on Fire programme. The environmental programmes branch was looking at longer-term employment opportunities, so it was able to improve its FTEs. It was also influenced by the fact that the start of a project was critical. If the Department delayed starting the project, it had an impact on the duration of employment. The branch was dealing with those issues to ensure it had longer-term employment programmes in place.

The minimum daily wage before October 2022 was about R104, as per the ministerial determination from the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL). The branch had been paying above the minimum -- its minimum was R105. It also had other programmes that were paying R500 a day. Payment depended on the nature of the project, its activities, and the job-specific functions. The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) defined full-time equivalence as a duration of employment, including training days. The definition was calculated on 123 days of employment.

In monitoring the work done, the Department conducted second-party verification and assessment, independent of the implementing chief directorate. This process would assess what was paid for by the Department, the accuracy of the information, and the assets and services delivered. In 2018, it completed an evaluation study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to examine the social, economic and environmental impact of the Department's programme. From 2019, the Department started doing baseline assessments because of the gaps identified through the evaluation study. After a specific period, it would be able to go back and look at whether its projects had made an impact. It was conducting baseline studies on its initiatives on an annual basis. It also conducted data quality assessment audits, where it checked on the participants on the ground, specifically their work contracts, and time sheets, and looked at compliance with the ministerial determination and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Ms Morongoa Leseke, Chief Director: Forestry Operations, DFFE, responded on the risk posed by the shot hole borer beetle: The forestry branch was working with Forestry South Africa on the master plan, and was co-funding the research in various areas to identify pests and diseases that affected the sector. Because the co-funding came through towards the end of the current financial year, it was likely to know the extent of that risk later in the year. At the moment, it did not know the extent of the risk posed by the beetle.

Concerning the ten million trees, she did not know offhand how many fruit trees had been planted. The Department could provide a written response.

On refurbishing only three nurseries, unlike other branches, forestry did not have an allocation -- it was funding Working for Forests from its own goods and services budget, and it was very limited. Members would recall that it was not only the nurseries it was maintaining -it was also doing planting in category B and C areas and silviculture. It was limited because it had no allocation for Working on Forests. It was hoping that because it was likely to overachieve its targets, it would be afforded a wage incentive by the DPWI later in the year. A branch got a wage incentive based only on its performance

Dr Mkhize responded on the growth of "Working For" participants. As part of restructuring the branch, one focus area was creating a directorate dedicated to contractor development. Previously, in other "Working For" programmes, the issue of contractor development had been a priority. But looking at the data on growth of individuals or entities that participated, there had been only limited growth. The Department was taking the matter very seriously. It was creating dedicated capacity to look into that issue, and then come up with key interventions that enabled participants, particularly contractors, to progress as they participated in various "Working For" programmes. The development of participants was an area of collaboration with the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). The Department recognised its previous shortcomings.

The Chairperson said it should be a priority to see if questions had been sufficiently responded to. There needed to be further clarification through a written format. It was becoming a norm, where the Committee often got that kind of response. He was not raising that issue with the Department alone. It should be the Committee that resolved whether questions were sufficiently answered.

He thanked the team from the Department, and commented that he felt the Committee should continue managing its time as it had that day, since it had an hour to spare from its allocated meeting time.

The meeting was adjourned.

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