New fishing rights effective from 1 January have been placed on hold following a successful interdict by established commercial company, Viking Inshore Fishing.
MOSSEL BAY NEWS - New fishing rights effective from 1 January have been placed on hold following a successful interdict by established commercial company, Viking Inshore Fishing.
On Friday, 9 December, the Mossel Bay Advertiser reported that many Mossel Bay employees of Viking Inshore Fishing could lose their jobs because of the new rights allocation.
According to a press release by Viking Inshore Fishing, the company is among the 27 fishing companies that have been temporarily suspended from harvesting hake and sole but the interdict granted by the Cape High Court was necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the company and secure the livelihoods of 179 employees.
The allocation for inshore hake trawl fishing, one of the most sought-after quotas, was awarded on 21 December, with 12 of the 27 rights given to new entrants. The rights are allocated for a period of 15 years. Established commercial fishing companies, such as Viking and I&J, stand to lose substantial volumes in the new allocation.
Viking Fishing was granted the interdict by the High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday, 3 January.
This means no one landing or discharging in Mossel Bay or Port Elizabeth may catch hake using small trawlers until 6 February. In the High Court order Judge Lee Bozalek ruled that Viking "had established a prima facie case that the rights allocations were unlawful, irrational and procedurally unfair, and that the company had a reasonable prospect of success on appeal".
The interdict stalls the new allocation, which would have come into full effect from 1 January. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has said it intends to challenge the ruling and will respond to it at a press briefing on Friday.
Viking Inshore Fishing representative, Tim Reddell, says that following the allocation of 15-year rights in the R700 million per year-earning fishery, the company's quota was cut by approximately 60%, despite it achieving the second highest score in the process used by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to rank aspirant right-holders. The quota cut seriously threatened the survival of the company's inshore trawl operation which was built up over 28 years.
"A 60% cut in our quota will devastate our business and see us lay up three or four vessels – leaving the skippers and fishing crews without work and in due course close down our hake and sole handling, packing and processing factory in Mossel Bay. This would destroy the employment opportunities we have create over many years. We decided we couldn't do that to our people," he said.
In terms of a court order issued by Judge Lee Bozalek on Tuesday, 3 January, the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, and the deputy director-general in the DAFF are prevented from issuing the permits that would allow right-holders in the inshore trawl fishery to start catching their 2017 quotas. Fishing will be suspended until the matter is heard in full by the Cape High Court in February.
One of the main issues underlying the case was the unconstitutional basis of the quantum allocation mechanism.
"The court acknowledged that the quota cut would have caused irreparable harm to our business," said Reddell.
"We are of the view that cutting the quotas of existing right-holders, particularly those that have built up fishing fleets, processing infrastructure and marketing networks over several decades in favour of irrationally promoting new entrants, will destroy value, as opposed to creating opportunities in the fishing industry. Many scarce jobs, as well as food security and economic benefits, will be lost."
According to the DAFF, the Marine Living Resources Act (MRLA) (1998) allows any South African irrespective of race, creed or background to apply for fishing rights. They are not property rights but a privilege afforded for a specified time; usually they are valid for a period of eight to 15 years.
When this privilege (right) expires it reverts back to the state and no company or individual can claim to deserve reallocation (of course certain aspects are considered).
It is during the process of reallocation that the state decides to whom to grant and not to grant rights,
"I am sure if I were to take the case of Viking for instance, they also at some point were new in fisheries and therefore the experience issue is immaterial," a departmental spokesperson told the Mossel Bay Advertiser.