The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has reached an interim agreement with line fishermen that will allow them to continue fishing until the appeals process for those not granted licences is completed.
On Tuesday, the department’s deputy director-general for fisheries, Desmond Stevens, and Wally Croome, chairman of the South African Commercial Linefish Association, said they hoped the deal would solve the crisis in the industry.
Last month, the department announced that of the 3,490 applications, only about 600 led to rights being granted. Of the 1,556 applications for traditional line fish, only 215 succeeded.
The applications were for fishing rights in the KwaZulu-Natal prawn trawl, as well as the demersal shark, squid, tuna pole-line, hake land-line, white mussel, traditional line fish and oyster segments.
Many of those who failed to get rights are established fishermen who lost their livelihoods. They held several meetings last week to plan a course of action and are desperate to get their boats back to sea.
Others who depend on the industry to make a living, such as hawkers, have also criticised the licensing process.
According to Mr Stevens, the department and the association had agreed that unsuccessful previous fishing rights holders would be permitted to apply for exemptions in order to fish, pending the outcome of an appeal process.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson would oversee this appeal process.
Mr Stevens said the department would assess the exemption applications as quickly as possible to allow deserving applicants to go to sea soon.
To qualify for an exemption, applicants have to prove that they fished the total number of days applicable to the area for the 2007-12 period.
For fishermen based in Gansbaai, Struisbaai, Mossel Bay, St Francis Bay, Jeffreys Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port Alfred, and East London this amounts to 120 days a year. For those based in northern and southern KwaZulu-Natal, it is 150 days a year.
Mr Stevens also committed the department to issuing the applicants’ score sheets and reasons for the success or failure of their applications by the end of this week.
Mr Croome described the agreement as “first prize” for the fishing community.
He said the aim was first to get boats back into the water so that their owners could earn money for their crews, and then for a long-term solution to be found.
Article source: http://business.iafrica.com/news/893075.html