WWF wins court battle over West Coast rock lobster catch limits

The court ruled in favour of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s application for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to reduce the quota.

Picture: Pixabay.com

CAPE TOWN - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) says socio-economic factors of coastal communities drive their decision of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Western Cape rock lobster.

The Western Cape High Court on Wednesday ruled in favour of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s application for the department to reduce the quota.

According to the judgment, the TAC of just over 1,924 tons for the 2017/2018 fishing season was irrational, unlawful and inconsistent with the Constitution and the National Environmental Management Act.

Scientists have suggested the catch should be less than 790 tons to allow the rock lobster population to recover.

“We cannot take a decision that will disadvantage the poor people. That’s why we’re going to explain, and where necessary, we may have to appeal the decision,” says department spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana.

WWF approached the Cape High Court as an action of last resort after many attempts over several years to engage with the DAFF.

The court held that DAFF failed to uphold its legal mandate of conserving our marine resources.

Significantly, the court also found that when determining the TAC, the deputy Director-General failed to consider the best available scientific evidence as required in terms of international law.

WWF says the sad reality is that the West Coast rock lobster resource has declined dramatically over the last 50 years because of overfishing.

WWF now expects DAFF to set the next season’s TAC at a level that will allow this resource to recover.

Despite having had to resort to court action, WWF stands ready to support DAFF and all West Coast rock lobster fishery stakeholders with implementing such a recovery plan to ensure socio-economic benefits for current and future generations.

LISTEN: Govt's fishing quota for West Coast rock lobster unconstitutional, court rules

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)