CALL FOR SUSPENSION OF RIGHTS IN WCRL FISHERY
South Africa - A coalition of stakeholders is calling for all fishing rights in the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) fishery to be suspended until government takes radical remedial action to put the fishery back on a sustainable path. Illegal fishing and a continued failure to allocate all fishers secure long-term rights are among the challenges that are currently threatening the continued existence of the WCRL fishery, with a mere 2% of the pre-exploitation stocks left in the sea.
For the past 18 months, WWF-SA, the South African United Fishers Front (SAUFF), Masifundise Development Trust, and other fishery stakeholders have worked in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to develop an agreed-upon recovery plan for this fishery. But this work was turned on its head when DAFF recently decided to ignore scientific advice and the agreed-upon recovery plan by setting the 2016/17 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) at unsustainably high levels.
WWF South Africa, Masifundise, Coastal Links, and the SAUFF are now calling for all rights in the WCRL fishery to be suspended, with no fishing of any kind permitted and government-funded compensation for rights holder losses during closure.
They are demanding that there is:
a) a a reduction of the 2016/2017 TAC to 1270 tonnes as recommended by the department’s own scientists and managers. This level is consistent with current resource recovery targets.
b) implementation of a scheme restricting fishing to a limited number of months per fishing area, as recommended by DAFF’s scientific and management staff through stakeholder consultations.
c) allocation of long term fishing rights for WCRL to all fishing sectors consistent with DAFF’s existing policies, including DAFF’s Policy for Small Scale Fishers and anti-corruption policies.
d) implementation of a fully traceable and transparent programme that ensures that only WCRL legally harvested by bona fide legal commercial and small scale fishers may gain entry into any commercial market in South Africa and abroad.
e) DAFF’s re-commitment to implementing the recovery plan for WCRL as agreed upon with fishery stakeholders (the WCRL Fishery Conservation Project and Recovery Plan).
f) A government-funded compensation (based on the average market price, less fishing costs) and recapitalisation programme for WCRL right holders during any period of fishery closure.
Consumers also have an important role to play in driving change in this fishery. As a result of the ongoing management challenges in this fishery, WCRL has recently been Red-listed by WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and the organisation is asking consumers to “skip the kreef” this summer.
While the costs of compensating fishers may seem significant, it is worth noting that the South African government was recently awarded approximately R750 million when a US court ordered convicted poacher, Arnold Bengis, to pay these costs from ill-gotten gains related to massive illegal WCRL operations that were uncovered in 2003. These funds should ideally be used to help recover the WCRL resource that has been impacted by these and other illegal fishing activities.