Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Community Fishing Rights

Group Rights for Commercial Fishermen

Coloured Fishing Community
Image From: Business Report
This is the latest 'idea' from South Africa's legislators: In a half hearted politically motivated attempt to address the problem created by the commercial fisheries act in 1998, the ministry has come up with a proposed bill to grant small scale fishing communities group rights.

The idea is; these communities, many of which are (were prior to 1994) dependent on small scale commercial fishing for a livelihood, will be able to apply for commercial fishing licences as a community rather than as individuals. Not a terribly bad idea in fact, however it only addresses a part of the ex-commercial fishing community  -the Western Cape based 'coloured' fishermen.

And the Rest of The People?

What about the Rest of the country? East Coast (from Port Elizabeth to Kosi Bay) were never organised as 'fishing communities'. As a group these previous commercial fishermen were deprived of licences to fish in 1998.

This region was traditionally based on small boat line fishing, what prior to 1998 was known as 'Class A and B' licences, and the Squid (Chokka) 'Class C' licence. Government correctly identified the old licence system as unconstitutional. Bona-fide fishermen were unable to obtain a licence form government as the existing licences were being traded like stock market shares for ridiculous amounts of money.

But what replaced the old system was no better - in fact it was worse. Despite the original draft bill declaring all South African bona-fide fishermen would have an equal opportunity to apply for the new licences at an affordable price, the actual bill approved by parliament was totally different to that proposed.

As far as commercial fishermen in KwaZulu Natal were concerned, only those who had existing licences (bought for mega-bucks) were allowed to apply. Even then they were granted only 48 hours to prepare a complex document and submit it. (No application forms had been made available to this sector UNTIL THE LAST DAY OF SUBMISSIONS - a 48 hour extension was granted to accommodate them!

Many of the existing commercial fishermen did not bother to apply at all - one participant in the industry, Piet S. stated he would not even be able to get an appointment with his lawyer in the allotted time, and the document was so complex he was un-able to prepare it himself.

Then there was the ridiculous non-refundable application fee of R5000.00 required that had to be paid at the time of submission.

One Man One Licence

Image from: Onestonedcrow
The original bill had proposed a system of 'One Man One Licence' where every participant would get a personal licence to fish commercially. This meant that every member of crew of a commercial boat would be a licenced commercial fisherman, with the rights to catch and sell fish for reward. These licences would be affordable.

As we know, the approved legislation was totally different, in fact not much different to the old act.

East Coast Trawling Also Got the Boot

It wasn't only small scale fishermen who lost their livelihood through the 1998 act. Large companies with trawlers registered and operating on the East Coast were not granted licences either. One company, Natal Ocean Trawling, a prawn trawling operation, had to harbour their boats.

White fish trawling operations from Port Elizabeth Eastward were similarly beached. The entire allocation of commercial licences went to the Western Cape!

Poorly Disguised Attempt to Get Votes:

In 2008, the unspoken intention was to buy the vote of the Western Cape 'coloured' communities for the ANC by giving theses people the idea they would get the licences if they supported the ANC in the 2009 elections. As a ploy it worked well. The implementation of the act however resulted in the majority of these fisherman having to sign their name as a proxy to a big business operation - where were they going to get the application fee - no bank will lend that sort of money to a fisherman who is in any case living form hand to mouth, for a speculative attempt to get a licence.

In the end most of these proxy fishermen ended up un-employed, without the licence their livelihood depended on.

No More Than an Election Ploy

Now once again we see a similar situation: The Western Cape coloured people have had enough of ANC politics and like the rest of us are sick and tired of broken promises made by the party prior to elections. As a group they have turned away from the ANC, and come out in strong support of the Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties.

This latest 'Comunity Fishing Rights' amendment is clearly designed and timed to gain support for the upcoming general election in 2014...

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