Pellucid: Commercial fishing and fish farming companies have been found to be highly transparent. Picture: ISTOCK
Pellucid: Commercial fishing and fish farming companies have been found to be highly transparent. Picture: ISTOCK

Fishing companies that catch hake for local and international markets have called for sensible rights allocation to preserve international competitiveness and jobs in coastal areas.

The fishing industry, which contributes R6.7bn a year to the economy, has previously been hobbled by delays in the allocation of fishing rights and prolonged litigation. Long-term rights for 12 commercial fisheries will be allocated by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in 2020.

The state has previously raised concerns that the sector is still dominated by a few firms. In 2016, then president Jacob Zuma signed into law the Marine Living Resources Amendment Act, which recognises small-scale fishers who have been marginalised in the allocation of fishing rights.

Earlier in 2019, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana said his department was accelerating efforts to transform the multi-billion-rand fishing sector so it can also benefit small-scale fishermen and black-owned businesses. 

Releasing the findings of an independent, industry-wide socio-economic study of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery in Cape Town on Thursday, Terence Brown, who chairs the SA Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (Sadstia), said that the industry’s “well-developed, unique economic characteristics should be front of mind during the fishing rights allocation process”.

The association represents established operators in the industry.  “It does not, in any way, compete for resources with small-scale fisheries because it fishes in deep, offshore waters that are inaccessible to small boats. To overlook the risky, capital-intensive nature of the deep-sea trawl industry, and the need for economies of scale in the catching and processing of Cape hake, would be to risk destroying this industry, which currently provides compelling value and thousands of good jobs in coastal areas.”

Socio-economic reality

The socio-economic study released by Sadstia was completed late in 2018 by Genesis Analytics, a local economics consultancy. It quantifies, for the first time, the socio-economic contribution of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.

Genesis Analytics’ researchers calculated that if the quotas of existing rights holders are reduced by 10% in 2020, the objectives of the Marine Living Resources Act and the National Development Plan (NDP) would not be met and the socio-economic contribution of the sector would be materially reduced. This would have a major impact on production costs, resulting in a forced restructuring of the industry and job losses.

According to the report, historically disadvantaged persons currently hold approximately 66% of the equity in the firms harvesting 90% of the hake deep-sea trawl catch and the same or higher among the remaining smaller firms.

The report also states that the sector employs 7,300, fully unionised and often multi-generational workers. In terms of wages, sea-going workers earn approximately R20,000 a month, while quayside and factory workers earn R10,000 a month, on average — far above the national minimum wage.

Said Brown, “We believe the findings of the Genesis Analytics study are critically important and we are confident that [the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries] will consider them seriously.” 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za