“Interim Relief highly problematic for everyone”

Small-scale fishers need to organise themselves and get themselves ready for the implementation of the small-scale fishing policy (SSFP), and focus less on Interim Relief (IR), if they wish to find solutions for many of the problems they face.

This is the view of Craig Smith, Director of small-scale fisheries management at the Fisheries Management Branch of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). He was responding to an article that appeared in ‘The Hook’ last week about the problems small-scale fishers have with DAFF.

“The only aspect that I would agree with the complainants is that Interim Relief is highly problematic for everyone involved, including government. I became aware of this in my very first month of office and am certainly not new and we are certainly not going to find any answers under Interim Relief because there is very little structure to it and therefore it is fundamentally flawed. The sooner we come to terms with this the better it would be to start looking for real solutions. The Department has already made good progress towards implementing small-scale fisheries policy to address these problems,” says Smith.

“Since, nobody will complain about their own inadequacies, maybe it is time to change the dialogue a bit and ask what people are doing in communities to resolve some of the issues that should be resolved on a community level and also what is done to prepare for small-scale. It would be a real tragedy that people who have waited so long to be recognised are so completely taken up by Interim Relief issues that they are entirely oblivious to the good news that is waiting for them in the next few months.”

At the moment, the department is busy with getting the SSFP implemented by putting proper legislative and implementation frameworks in place.

“The amendment to the Marine Living Resources Act has been made, but now the regulations have to be finalised.”

Smith says that the regulations will prescribe how the policy will be implemented.

Small-scale fishers and fishing communities must identify who the small-scale fishers are, and once they have been identified, they will be eligible to become members of co-operatives that will benefit under the SSFP.

According to Smith, the Department will mobilise communities into co-operatives, and that communities and fishers cannot set up their own co-operatives.

“People can start co-operatives, nothing prevents them from doing it, but those co-operatives will not be recognised by the department under the small-scale policy.”

Smith says that the SSFP will be managed and will be nothing like the IR, which is fundamentally flawed as he put it, and that the SSFP is a proper programme with rules and regulations that is meant to bring solutions to the community of fishers.

“Interim is now in its tenth season, and it offers no solution, it was not put there to take care of the problems of small scale fishers. We must see out the next few months and work very hard to get the SSFP implemented, both from government side and from the small scale fishers.”

Smith says that he realise that there is a lot of misunderstanding and lack of information about what the small-scale fishing policy is all about.

Fishing communities he believes can help with the verification of fishers, get people to understand the policy, read the regulations and study the constitution of co-operatives as proposed by DAFF.

The co-operatives constitution can be found within the regulations of the small scale fishing policy.

Smith says that DAFF will be become increasingly visible within fishing communities in the next few months to get the implementation of the SSFP rolled out.

Unfortunately, he says things go painstakingly slow when it comes to government, and that he hopes that a good policy will be implemented after this very long wait.

His projections are that if everything goes well that the SSFP will be rolled out by Jun/July in 2016.

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