The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is to take back its fleet of patrol vessels as the South African Navy has failed to keep them working - six of the ships have lost their certification of being fit for sea.
The Marine Stewardship Council requires a survey of SA's hake stocks to be completed by the end of next month. If the deadline is missed, up to 9,000 jobs could be in jeopardy.
Deputy director of fisheries Greta Apelgren-Narkedien told Parliament's agriculture, forestry and fisheries committee on Wednesday (20 February) that new tenders for the management of the patrol vessels would be issued.
The ships were given to the navy in March last year after the cancellation of a tender for their management. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating allegations of corruption.
In a presentation to the committee, the department said the navy lacked qualified personnel to operate the ships. There have been no patrols of SA's exclusive economic zone since the navy took control of the vessels.
"We therefore cannot determine whether any illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is taking place," the department said in its presentation.
The department said it had chartered a privately owned vessel to complete the Marine Stewardships Council survey. The ship sailed last week and the survey would be completed by March 5.
Fishing industry association FishSA, which facilitated the private charter, said 9,000 jobs in the hake industry were at risk if the council did not certify stocks, as producers would lose access to lucrative European markets.
FishSA deputy chairman Tim Reddell said it was disappointing that the navy was unable to care for and operate the vessels. "We had expected them to be able to do this," he said.
Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen laid the blame for the fiasco at Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's door.
"She has failed to take responsibility for the disaster that is the fisheries unit. If the minister does not have a strategy, thousands of South Africans will lose their jobs," he said.
Source: Business Day
via I-Net Bridge