Court battle for fishing rights resumes

Viking Fishing Mossel Bay provides work to scores of people. Photo: Gwyneth Fryer

MOSSEL BAY NEWS - Viking Inshore Fishing's fight for survival in the Cape Town High Court resumed this week. The company has approached the courts to halt the spreading of fishing rights to newcomers in the industry at the detriment of established fishing companies.
Following the allocation of 15-year rights to the company, its 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.
Viking Inshore Fishing director Tim Reddell recently told the Mossel Bay Advertiser that the DAFF's allocations had overlooked the fact that a company with investments in vessels and infrastructure and 28 years of experience was in a position to offer good jobs with negotiated wages and benefits that could never be matched by a start-up with no experience.
According to media reports, the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) supports Viking Inshore Fisheries in the Cape Town High Court to compel government to allow established companies to continue fishing within the industry quotas, instead of spreading the rights to benefit newcomers.
About 46 commercial trawling companies in South Africa have investments of nearly R6 billion and employ more than 7 000 workers. Pending a ruling on an application brought by Viking Fisheries to compel government to abandon its new rights allocation practice, no one is allowed to fish in the Hake/Sole Inshore Trawl sector.
Lawyers for Viking Fishing have told the Cape Town High Court that the factory in Mossel Bay could face closure should government take away fishing quotas.
Viking employs about 1 500 workers along the coast.
Reddell says all the company is asking for is that no new permits under the new dispensation should be issued until such time as the appeal process is complete.
Viking was forced to seek a legal outcome to prevent the department from issuing the 2017 Hake Inshore Trawl catch permits to the 12 new entrants, as once issued, this would have entrenched their rights for the next 15 years and would have reduced the size of the established businesses.
As a result, Viking successfully applied for an interdict, and therefore no company is allowed to fish in the hake/sole inshore trawling sector.
Despite scoring 92.7% on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' (DAFF) own criteria which included employee numbers, levies paid and fish caught, the department apparently awarded rights based on black ownership and as a result, the company had been allocated only approximately one-third of its previous quota.
Spokesperson for SADSTIA, Claire Attwood, told the SABC this week that the deepsea industry will suffer the same fate when rights are being allocated in three years' time, should Viking lose the court battle.
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