Masifundise and Coastal Links have requested to see a report with the findings of the Abalone Experimental Project implemented by the department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.

The project, launched in 2011, aimed to investigate the sustainability of the resource – Abalone- and whether it “could sustain a viable abalone fishery for the small- scale industry”. The project was to last three years and was implemented in the Eastern and Western Cape.

Amongst other things, the abalone project was to determine,

–              Determine the geographical distribution of abalone in the Eastern Cape

–              To determine whether the TAC of abalone could be increased.

–              To gather whether abalone is viable and sustainable to be commercially fished so to give allocations to deserving communities,

–              Give training and transfer skills to communities.

About 25 Small-Scale Fishing communities were used in the research and in the Eastern Cape and each community were allocated about 1.5 tons to harvest.

Divers were also appointed on behalf of the communities with the aim to harvest for and also transfer diving skills to fishers.

“We have been doing our own calculations regarding how many tons divers managed to catch in this three year period “commented Mr Ayanda Yekani of Hamburg.

Masifundise has been informed that some communities did not receive any training, and no proper feedback has been given to communities regarding the project.

Small-Scale fishers in Hamburg, Bell and Bordina, Tyolomnqa, Kei Mouth, Mahasana, Qholorha, Ngcizela, Wavecrest, Cebe  to name just a few, have criticised the manner in which the project was conducted.

“We have received about R350 per person for the three year period, but have not been given a breakdown of how this amount came about. I would be happy if this matter would be investigated so that we as fishers can know how the department came to this amount,” continued Mr Yekani.

Meanwhile many questions remain:

What were the findings of the research? When will they be made available? What is the status of the resource and have the small-scale fishing communities that were used in this experiment really benefited from the research at all?

In October 2007 South Africa indefinitely suspended abalone fishing in its waters, and this was to be effective as from February 2008. This suspension affected both small scale and commercial fishers.

“The suspension to catch this species was due to factors such as Illegal fishing and increased inward migration of lobster species that destroyed abalone habitat, but in making the decision, the department promised to make a “plan” for those legal fishers affected by the suspension”, the department had said.

By 2010 the suspension was lifted by the department, and the 302 right holders were given back their rights for a period of 4 more years until end of July 2014.

The experimental project was to end in May 2014, months before the Minister announced a one year extension for Perlemoen rights holders to continue catching until the end of July this year.

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