Minister of agriculture‚ forestry and fisheries Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GCIS
Minister of agriculture‚ forestry and fisheries Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GCIS

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries is on a drive to increase fishing quotas for small-scale fishermen and black-owned businesses, while at the same time gradually cutting allocations to established fishing companies.

The government is concerned that the multibillion-rand sector remains untransformed and dominated by a few companies. 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.

The fishing industry contributes R6.7bn a year to the economy; however, its growth has previously been hobbled by delays in the allocation of fishing rights and prolonged litigation.

In a reply to a question from the EFF in parliament last week, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana confirmed that the department was looking to increase quotas allocated to small-scale fishermen and reduce allocations to established operators.

In his response Zokwana said the department has considered allocating 100% of the oyster and white mussel, 100% of the hake handline, 50% of the nearshore lobster and 20% of the offshore lobster quotas to the small-scale sector.

In addition, a minimum of 50% of the Total Allowable Effort (TAE) of the line fishery and 25% of the TAE in the squid fishery are intended to be allocated to small-scale fishers, he said. TAE refers to the total amount of effort — vessels, fishermen or hours — that can be applied to a fishery.

The department has also allocated “certain concession areas in the seaweed fishery to the small-scale sector, as well as in the netfish fishery to the small-scale sector”, he said.

At the weekend, ministerial spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana elaborated that the intention to increase allocations to small-scale fishermen is that “they are newcomers as blacks and coloureds”. “He [the minister] is giving them 15-year permits to catch up with white established commercial companies,” said Nkwanyana.

The SA Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, which represents established operators in the industry, recently called for sensible rights allocation to preserve international competitiveness and jobs in coastal areas.

It said its members do not in any way “compete for resources with small-scale fisheries because [they] fish in deep, offshore waters that are inaccessible to small boats”.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za