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DA calls on minister to allocate fishing rights to small-scale fishers

(Subsistence fishers obliged to work in cooperatives? (Yah, that'll work. Gugu has the entire co-management commitee structure mapped out for Coffee Bay, and tried for years to get the department to 'cooperate'.)

WHILE the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to "urgently" allocate fishing rights in the small-scale fisheries sector, the minister has said she cannot until new legislation was passed.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson has been repeatedly criticised for mishandling her portfolio, which has impact on a large slice of South Africa’s economy. The sectors she controls can provide jobs for unskilled labour in a country embroiled in an education crisis.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson’s small-scale fisheries policy was adopted by Cabinet in 2012, and the process to amend the Marine Living Resources Act began immediately thereafter "to ensure a legal framework exists to enable the implementation of the policy", Ms Joemat-Pettersson’s spokeswoman Carol Moses said on Wednesday.

Earlier this month the minister complained that her department was "operating in a legislative vacuum" because "over 20" pieces of legislation (including the Marine Living Resources Act) that needed amendment were being held up by inaction from Parliament’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries committee.

Moloto Motapo, spokesman for African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Stone Sizani, said on Wednesday there were more than 70 bills before Parliament, all expected before the 2014 elections, and "the reality is that it is impractical that all of them will be passed."

DA agriculture, forestry and fisheries shadow minister Pieter van Dalen said: "The DA urges all stakeholders … to step aside all political machinations and put fishing communities first by processing and passing this vital piece of legislation without delay."

Among others, the bill was set to change the status of South Africa’s roughly 6,000 "subsistence fishermen", designating them "small-scale fishers" and obliging them to work together in co-operatives, Mr van Dalen said.

"This has serious implications considering the significant numbers of subsistence quota holders, their isolated locale, inaccessibility to fishery control offices and the lack of any legal and socioeconomic research or analysis into what it would mean to migrate these quota holders to the category of "small-scale".

It is not feasible to simply remove the largest single recognised category of fishermen from the statue books without a concrete plan to assist them going forward," he said.

Fisheries expert Shaheen Moolla said the problem with the department’s small-scale fisheries policy was that it "lumped everything into one system, one set of rules", when there were several species covered by the policy, not all of which could be fished by small-scale fishers.

Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies fisheries expert Moenieba Isaacs, who helped write the new policy, said the policy’s proof would be in its implementation.

Prof Isaacs said the policy was expressly aimed at ensuring those previously excluded from participating in the fishing industry were included. Doing this would require extensive investment in infrastructure in small fishing communities or the policy would not work, she said.

"I do have a problem with the notion of co-operatives, I don’t feel the communities are ready to work as co-operatives yet," she said.




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