The government’s statement that some of our fish stocks are about to collapse, is based on an economic agenda, instead of scientific data.
This is the view of Christian Adams, national chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA), reacting to a report tabled in parliament on August 4, by the acting deputy director general (DDG) in the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.
Last week the acting DDG, Siphokazi Ndudane said: “Our country’s resource situation is bad. We have stocks that could collapse at any time. Some fish stocks could be eliminated in the near future, if something is not done about it”.
She did not indicate which species, but it is widely believed that the species that are mostly harvested by small-scale fishers are the ones that the department is keeping an eye on.
These stocks are mainly, west coast rock lobster, abalone and line-fish, according to Adams.
Adams is totally convinced that this statement has been made to impact on the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) that will be awarded to small-scale fishers when the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) policy comes into effect.
“On the eve of the implementation of the SSF policy, we are told this, and that the species that are important to the small scale fishers are affected, I don’t believe this report,” says Adams.
Adams believes that the department have no scientific evidence on which they base this decision, and that it is an economic decision to benefit the large commercial companies.
“The government must look at the basis on which fishing rights are allocated, for small-scale fishers, the right to fish is a human right, but for commercial companies, it is an economic activity the government grants them to exploit the resources for commercial gain”.
“If the government is thinking of closing any stocks, they should close down some of the activities of the commercial industry, because they are responsible for the depletion of the stocks.”
Adams says that out of experience he can see that the stocks are not depleted at the alarming rate that the government wants us to believe.
“From last year’s catch, it is clear that stocks are not depleted. Almost everybody managed to catch their TAC’s for the season”
In Elands Bay Area 4, we managed to catch almost all our stocks for the season, and some small-scale fishers even assisted the large commercial companies in catching theirs.”
Adams believes that if all quotas for the season were caught, that the stocks are not under threat.
Only a few people who did not manage to catch their stock, due to unforeseen circumstances, like broken boats and other logistical problems.
“In the same area, Elands Bay Area 4, 510ton of west coast rock lobster walked out of the sea last year and this is the government’s figures, not ours,” says Adams.
He believes that many of this rock lobster was put back into the sea and most of it was taken to large commercial factories in and around the area.
“Police and inspectors were protecting this rock lobster from the public, we could not get near to it. Many locals were employed in this operation, and they told us where these rock lobsters were taken.”
Adams says that according to a research paper he saw, that 4 000 ton of abalone were exported from South Africa to Asian countries, and that these information were sourced from the import statistics of the Asian countries.
“But, only 96 tons of wild caught abalone and 2000 ton farmed abalone can be exported to Asian countries. So the rest could have only been exported illegally”
Adams says that the department also set aside 800 tons of West Coast Rock Lobster for poaching every year.
“This is beside what is to be caught within the TAC, the government expects another 800 tons of lobster to be caught illegally”.
According to Adams, these large amounts of abalone and lobster can only be caught by large commercial concerns that have the resources and gear to catch, process and market such big amounts of stock.
Adams says that if there is going to be consequences of depleted stocks, that the government should not touch the TAC set aside for the implementation of the SSF policy, but should rather look at cutting what is in the basket of the commercial fishing companies.