Cape Town: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has appointed an independent law firm to conduct an audit to determine whether the allocation of fishing quotas was done lawfully.
Speaking to the media and the fishing community at the Holy Trinity Parish in Kalk Bay in Cape Town, Minister Joemat-Pettersson also announced that she had decided to extend the appeals process related to the allocated fishing rights by two months to April, to give a chance to appellants who previously held rights to state their cases.
This comes after many fishermen from fishing communities recently expressed their unhappiness after their fishing rights were revoked, while at the same time, new fishermen celebrated received rights for the first time. The deadline for applications for fishing quotas had lapsed on December 31.
“Firstly, I have appointed the law firm, Harris, Nupen, Molebatsi Attorneys, to advise me on the appeals process.
“They will undertake an urgent independent audit of the rights allocation process to ensure it was compliant with all relevant policies and legislation. They have considerable experience in the fisheries sector, and in the field of administrative law.
“They will commence work immediately,” she said.
Minister Joemat-Pettersson said due to the urgency and size of the task, the attorneys have also put together a team of attorneys to give them capacity.
“If there are problems identified, these will be assessed and appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that they are addressed,” she said.
She also said the extension of the appeals period would give time for the audit to be finalised, and that would allow her to get advice on what action she would need to take.
“If the process is found to be in order, we will have lost nothing, and gained enormous confidence in the integrity of the rights allocations.
“If errors are found, they will be corrected so that we again restore the necessary confidence that is required for the sector to flourish,” she said.
Minister Joemat-Pettersson said she would in the coming weeks visit several fishing communities on a listening and communications campaign to ensure that fishermen who have grounds to appeal are also granted a platform to speak to her before the cut-off date.
“I want to ensure that every South African citizen who applied for a fishing quota is accorded due respect and treatment, and has access to the same information and advice as any other applicant.
“The Fishing Rights Allocations Process dedicated number is 021 402 3576. A dedicated email and postal address, which people can use to make submissions or provide confidential information of any impropriety to this audit team, will be published.”