HARVESTING THE SEA
‘Transform at all costs’ agenda risks wrecking deep-sea fisheries sector
Signs are that policy will cause fragmentation, damaging a profitable industry that scores well on transformation, writes Johann Augustyn
Few South Africans who enjoy a meal of hake and chips will appreciate the effort required to produce it: deep-sea trawlers fish at depths of up to 700m, often riding 6m swells off the fabled Cape of Storms as they do so, and processors add value to the raw material by filleting, coating and packaging one of SA’s most abundant and valuable natural resources. Yet the future of the sustainable, profitable and internationally admired South African deep-sea trawling industry is under threat now that the government has shown its hand and allocated rights to the industry’s little brother, the inshore trawl fishery for hake and sole. The latest chapter in this rights allocation saga will play itself out in the High Court in Cape Town on February 6 as Viking Inshore Fishing — an established company with five fishing vessels, a factory, fish shops and 179 employees in Mossel Bay — pleads for relief from the court after its inshore trawling division was devastated by a 60% quota cut. Round one...