By Yolandé Stander
AT least two of the companies involved in the controversial allocation of permits to “local communities” to harvest 30 tons of perlemoen along the Eastern Cape coast are in fact from the Western Cape.
It has been claimed that impoverished Eastern Cape fishing communities are being used as little more than a front by government and Western Cape fishing concerns to line the pockets of a “select few” who stand to benefit from the perlemoen harvesting project in the province.
While the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries avoided questions on which companies would work with the Eastern Cape communities that have been awarded harvesting permits, it has been established that at least two were based on the Western Cape coast, with industry sources believing it was likely most, if not all, were from there.
The department issued seven permits mid-June for harvesting perlemoen along 400km of the Eastern Cape coast. The decision allows for more than 30 tons of perlemoen to be harvested every year for the next three years in an area where stocks have been devastated through poaching over the last decade.
But according to Shaheen Moolla, former director-general of law enforcement in the government’s Marine and Coastal Management Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MCM) division, “it is clear local communities are the fronts for such resource stripping and the creation of wealth for a few select persons”.
Moolla, now managing director of marine fisheries consultancy Feike in Cape Town, said during his time with MCM he encountered several pilot projects in which mainly Western Cape companies were involved – and ultimately benefited from the initiatives.
Moolla has established that one of the chosen companies is based in Hawston, near Hermanus, but he has not been able to identify which one.
National Council of Provinces member Elza van Lingen, who is responsible for the Kouga district, has further discovered that at least one permit – issued for the Jeffreys Bay and St Francis Bay area – had gone to Overberg Commercial Abalone Divers. This company is based in Gansbaai, also in the Western Cape.
A copy of the permit is in Weekend Post’s possession.
The department said the motivation behind the issuing of what it labeled “experimental permits” was to benefit disadvantaged local fishing communities and to conduct research into aspects like the geographical distribution of perlemoen along the coast.
Department spokesman Lionel Adendorff said local fishermen had organised themselves into seven groups and had signed agreements with companies to perform the diving on their behalf. However, he has failed to respond to Weekend Post’s inquiries as to who the companies are and where they are based.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday June 16 2012.