South Africa’s cabinet delays fishing rights allocation to 2021

South Africa has delayed the renewal and issuance of new commercial fishing permits – which were initially set to expire in December 2020 – for one year to allow the country's Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to streamline the process and address concerns from fishing communities about exclusion in previous allocations.

The commercial fishing rights, which will now expire in December 2021, are for 12 sectors of KZN prawn trawl, demersal shark, tuna-pole line, hake handline, line fish, white mussels, oysters, squid, small pelagics (pilchard and anchovy), hake deepsea trawl, hake longline, and south coast rock lobster.

DEFF issued a statement on 7 September, saying the decision to extend the deadline was arrived at “following consultation with the sector and is aimed at ensuring we follow all regulatory and legislative requirements.”

“It is essential that the process is seen to be fair, open and transparent and must promote the transformation of the sector, and create sustainable livelihoods for the many coastal communities who have no other means of support,” South Africa Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries Barbara Creecy said. 

DEFF wants to use the extended one-year period “to deliver a credible and transparent fishing rights allocation process and to reduce the number of appeals and legal reviews.” The process will be preceded by a review of the existing fishing rights allocation policy and the appointment of new service providers to manage the process to ensure compliance with all approved fishing licensing regulations.

The service providers, who are yet to be appointed, will also “develop and manage a database, assist with adjudications, and conduct forensic investigations and audits on the information provided by (fishing rights) applicants.” 

Over the next 12 months, DEFF is also expected to generate adequate data that would ensure the approval process of existing and new applications is based on “credible scientific and socio-economic information on all the fishing sectors due for reallocation.”

Previous fishing rights allocations were marred with complaints of unfairness and claims it excluded coastal fishing communities. South Africa’s cabinet said earlier this month it is "essential the process is credible, transparent, and furthers transformation of the industry as a whole.”

Furthermore, DEFF said the cabinet was concerned that due to the fishing rights allocation process being highly contentious, it requires strict compliance with “a number of legal and administrative procedures to ensure that a proper, transparent and legally defensible process is followed.”

“Cabinet’s approval for an extension of the timeframes will be in the interest of all South Africans, including both the current right holders and aspirant applicants,” DEFF added. 

But before the cabinet resolved to delay the fishing rights allocation process (FRAP 2020), DEFF had declared a moratorium on the submission of applications for the transfer of commercial fishing rights – including notifications of changes in shareholding and/or members’ interest – in all the 12 fishing sectors that were due for allocation by December 2020. Current fishing right-holders have only up to September 30, 2019, to submit their applications.

It is likely the DEFF will relax the restriction, once again allowing the transfer of commercial fishing rights – including notifications of changes in shareholding and/or members’ interest –up to September 2021 at least, three months before the extended allocation period expires.

Photo courtesy of Brand South Africa


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