Fishing permits case remains unsettled

Minister Senzeni Zokwana considered 150 appeals in three of the sectors, but less than half were successful.

FILE: Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN -The Fisheries Ministry on Friday reversed some of the decisions taken during the disastrous 2013 fishing rights allocation process.

Many former rights holders in eight fishing sectors were not issued new rights two years ago, amid allegations of maladministration within the department.

In response to the uproar, former Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced her decision to set aside the entire process in May last year, but she had spoken too soon because only a court can overturn the process.

When her successor Senzeni Zokwana took over, he assured the industry that he would consider appeals lodged against the decisions that were taken in 2013.

To date, he has considered a total of 150 appeals in three sectors, namely demersal shark, oyster and white mussel.

Less than half were successful.

Zokwana said various factors were considered in each of the sectors, "I have accordingly decided the appeals taking into consideration not only our fisheries management obligations as set out in the Marine Living Resources Act, but also our commitments to transformation and socio-economic justice for local fishing communities along our coasts."

He said, "the narrative exists that would suggest that when allocating fishing rights, transformation and growing the fisheries economy cannot be done. I am of the view that these two can coexist."

Zokwana said of the 21 appeals lodged by shark fishermen, three were by previous rights holders and the remaining 18 were by new entrants.

He said it became apparent that the vast majority of appellants had failed to demonstrate access to suitable vessels, and only two satisfied the requirements.

Zokwana said this decision will increase the black ownership profile of the sector from 63.4% to 80%.

About 18 of the 74 appellants in the oyster sector were successful, while 21 out of 55 were successful in the white mussel sector.The rest of the sectors have not yet been decided.

Last year, the South African Commercial Linefish Association took Joemat-Pettersson to court over the exclusion of previous rights holders.

The association expects the ministry to table a proposal for an out of court settlement.