Public Participation an imperative in policy development, management and decision-making

The hook has been constantly highlighting Key policy objectives as outlined in the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy. This week we take a look at how the policy can promote effective participation in policy development, management and decision-making.

The participation of those affected by a decision that will be taken by the state is important, as it shows a free, fair and democratic state that involves citizens in matters that can and will have an effect on their daily lives.

The small-scale fisheries policy highlights the importance of effective participation as one of the key policy objectives that need to be adhered to by the state.

Though the word “Public” is excluded in the objective, it is safe to assume that when the policy states that the promotion of effective participation in policy development, management and decision making is a prerequisite, this effective participation is then required from the people who are and will be affected by the policy.

Section 195 (1)(e) of the Constitution  states that “people’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policymaking”.

Participation of the public implies that public contribution will influence the decision made by the state. It is thus important for the public to also know what their roles in the public participation processes are.

According to the Legislative Sector South Africa, 2013 “Public participation is the process by which Parliament and provincial legislatures consult with the people and interested or affected individuals, organisations and government entities before making a decision.”

Public participation may be regarded as a way of empowerment and as vital part of democratic governance (Wikipedia 2015).

The policy states that the participation process should be effective in its nature. This can translate to that those responsible for the public participation process should make that which needs to be known by the public, inclusive, accessible and it should be done in a timely manner.

If the public deem that the participation process was not fair and they feel that they have been left out they can look for other venues – such as legal, political, or media – in which to influence the decision of the process.

A realistic example of this is the process of gazetting the Draft Regulations relating to Small-Scale Fishing. The regulations were made accessible and the public where given 30 days to comment.

Stakeholders were not happy regarding the number of days given to them to comment, so this resulted in some stakeholders writing media articles and some taking legal action in order for the due date to be extended. This resulted in an extension to the number of days.

The involvement of citizens in policy-making and implementation is important to strengthen and deepen democratic governance. It is through active public participation that evidence-based policy-making and responsive service delivery can take place (Public Service Commission, 2010).

The Small-Scale Fisheries sector is at a pivotal point. The implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy will bring food security for many coastal families. Effective public participation is one key policy objective that will contribute to the sustainability of many small-scale fishers’ livelihoods.

Safety at Sea: Sea safety to save lives

We have heard of stories of fishers getting injured, falling ill or dying at sea. The cause of these incidents can be related to health, boating accidents and weather conditions that fishers experience while at sea.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation about 1000 fishers die at sea every year.  Small-scale fishers are probably the most vulnerable to injury and deaths as their equipment is primitive compared to industrial fishers.

Unfortunately there is currently no labour standards and basic conditions of employment that accommodates the needs for safety at sea in the Small Scale fisheries sector.

While the government recognises that Small Scale fishers contribute to the Road Accident Fund but are not covered for accidents at sea, Masifundise will make its duty to inform and educate small-scale fishers about safety at sea.

Below are precautions that can be taken by fishers while at sea to lower risks of injury and death.

Boat safety

  1. Boat builders should be obliged to provide information on the loading capacity of each boat they construct by painting the maximum number of people or weight which the boat can carry, on the boat.
  1. Boat users should practise regular maintenance – engine maintenance and repair — of their fishing boats.
  1. Fishing vessels should be equipped with radio or satellite communication for services ashore that provide medical advice.

Weather/environmental safety

  1. Fishers must have access to reliable/meaningful weather forecasts.
  1. Fishers are to be provided with special plastic bags so that they can take their mobile phones with them when going fishing.
  1. Vessels should display navigation lights, flags and balloons required by the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (IRPCS).
  1. The use of any fishing gear or tool whose propelling force results from the detonating power of a chemical substance or from artificially compressed gas is prohibited.

Crew safety

  1. Hygienic, sanitary, handling and processing requirements should be observed when dealing with a catch.
  1. At the very least one person on board must be qualified or trained in first aid and must be capable of using the medical equipment.
  1. Fishers under the age of 18 are to be the joint responsibility (safety and health) of fishing vessel owners, fishers and others.
  1. The majority of accidents at sea are caused by saltwater crocodile attacks. Crocodiles are regarded as sacred beings and are subject to respect, to specific taboos and prescriptions.
  1. Fishers must be trained to handle the fishing gear they will use, and comprehend the fishing operations they will engage in.

Safety at sea should be promoted at all times, so that fishers may enjoy a long and prosperous career.


Overfishing and the Commercial Fishing Sector

Last week, the hook published an article by the Fish site which took a look at how government corruption contributes to overfishing. This week we take look at how the private sector contributes to overfishing and the depletion of marine resources.

The sustainability of seafood protein food security in South Africa is threatened by a number of factors, notably overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch issues (unintentionally caught species by unselective fishing gear) and climate change (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2012).

“Overfishing is the greatest threat to ocean ecosystems today. Overfishing occurs because fish are captured at a faster rate than they can reproduce. Advanced fishing technology and an increased demand for fish have led to overfishing, causing several marine species to become extinct or endangered as a result.” (Darthmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, 2012).

South Africa has 22 fishing activities that are classified as commercial with 2 900 right holders and 1 788 vessels operating in the sector. The commercial fishing industry has impacted on various linefish species due to their over-exploitation.

For example in 2011 the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that the status of many South Africa’s linefish species is particularly worrying, almost 70% of the commercial species is considered collapsed.

Commercial fisheries use modern technology and equipment methods to harvest fish. These methods include longlining, purse- seining, and trawling. All these fishing methods have an impact on the marine environment and in many cases are the causes of overfishing which leads to the collapse of marine species.

Demersal trawling (dragging) is a non-selective fishing method, yielding a high proportion of by-catch and causing extensive environmental degradation to the seabed. Long-line fishing is less destructive of the marine environment (although more dangerous to seabirds) by not affecting the seabed, targeting demersal trawl species more successfully and discards only a limited amount of by-catch (Statistic SA 2008).

Overfishing including illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing hurts the South Africa Fishing Industry. This is heightened by the lack of proper fisheries management by the state.

Despite attempts by various organisations to curb the issue of over exploitation and overfishing of marine resources, the trend still continues.

A dedicated, co-ordinated and integrated management approach to sustain the coastal ecosystems is required.

DAFF calls for second round of comments on Draft Regulations

Fishing communities and stakeholders who wish to submit their comments on the Draft Regulation Relating to small-Scale fishing are given another 30 days to submit their comments.

The second round of comments was effective as from the 28 of April 2015.

Last week, Coastal communities submitted their comments to the department.

Fishers supported the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy, but were concerned that the regulations diluted the voice of the fishers and gave too much power to the Minister.  Furthermore, the they said that the regulations are not clear in terms of the purpose it needs to serve.

The gazzeting of the draft regulation is a mandatory process by the government to hear the voices of those who will be affected by the policy.

Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa urge communities and interested parties to submit their comment to the department.

As stated in the above article about public participation, the involvement of citizens in policy-making and implementation is important to strengthen and deepen democratic governance. It is through active public participation that evidence-based policy-making and responsive service delivery can take place.

Once the process of taking in comments is done, the department will have a final draft of the regulations.

The MRLA Amendment Act must be promulgated and the target date for the promulgation is June 2015.  Once finalised, the minister will launch the official implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy.

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