By: Tebogo Mokwena
The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment came under fire after Parliament accused its Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) of being fraught with errors, saying it does take into consideration communities where small-scale fishing is their livelihood. This was after it was revealed that more than 800 applicants were excluded, and more than 900 applicants were rejected.
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries have slammed a report provided by the department this week, saying that FRAP had been detrimental to jobs, small businesses and families who depended on fishing to survive. The Fishing Rights Allocation Process targets and awards fishing rights to nine fishing sectors specialising in different species. These are the KwaZulu-Natal crustacean trawl, Demersal Shark, tuna pole-line, traditional line fish, squid, small pelagic, hake deep-sea trawl, hake longline and the south coast rock lobster.
However, committee members said that the process prevented many small-scale fisheries from being able to fish in their communities as they used to in the past. The department reported that 2473 applications were received, and only 710 were successful. A total of 947 applicants were unsuccessful, and 812 applicants were excluded. The department also reported that 75% of the allowable fishing for squid would be allocated to commercial fisheries, while 25% would go to small-scale fisheries.
Committee member Mogamad Paulson said that the department had failed small-scale fisheries by the number of applicants excluded. “The system is fraught with errors, because small-scale fishers have been excluded, and is thus denying (small-scale fishers) the ocean,” he said. Committee member David Bryant said that many of the smaller businesses were unable to fish as they had for many generations because they were excluded from the application process.
“One man has had to close his small factory down, and he was a fifth-generation fisherman, which means that a lot of jobs have been lost, and another fishery which employed 500 people must now shut down,” he said. “Not enough has been done to reach out to them and assist them, and recognise the fact that they have been (treated unfairly) by the process.” The committee’s Narend Singh said that the process had to be credible enough to represent the needs of the people.
He pointed out that there was fronting in the sector, which was the practice of commercial fisheries employing smaller fisheries to fish on their behalf. “It is still the large companies manipulating the system,” he said. The Department’s Chief Director of Fisheries Operations Support, Sue Middleton, defended the FRAP process, describing it as very thorough. She also said in response to Singh on the allegations of fronting, that the department was not only concerned about fronting but also about paper quota holders, who rent out their fishing rights.
“If we can prove that paper quota holding and fronting is taking place, we can revoke the license,” she said. Middleton also said that the department set up 10 centres around the country to help with applications and the process of appeals.