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Cape Town - Commercial line fishermen who were unsuccessful in their applications for new rights can continue fishing for now, the Western Cape High Court ordered on Thursday.
Judge Daniel Dlodlo extended the two-month exemption granted by the same court in February until there had been a full legal review of the 2013 linefish rights allocation process.
The SA Commercial Linefish Association (SACLA) took Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and her former acting deputy director general Desmond Stevens to court after only 115 previous rights holders were included among 215 new line fishing rights allocated.
All 215 fishermen are listed as respondents.
Rights in various fishing sectors were previously assigned in 2005 and expired at the end of last year.
Those who were unsuccessful in the latest rights allocation process complained to the department that they had been unfairly treated by its decision.
The SACLA seeks to have the department's decision reviewed on the grounds that it failed to distinguish between new and existing applicants, did not give sufficient reasons, conducted the process unfairly, and lacked authority.
It also objected to the publication of a revised general policy and a sector specific policy on the basis that there was no public consultation and that Joemat-Pettersson lacked the constitutional authority to publish the policies. It seeks to have these policies reviewed and set aside.
Joemat-Pettersson acknowledged in February that there seemed to be “legitimate concerns” relating to poor administration of the applications or questionable judgements by delegated officials.
She said at the time there was “significant unhappiness” regarding allocations. This involved those who had not received a quota, as well as unhappiness about the size of quotas.
Parallel to proceedings in court, she extended the appeals process until the end of this month and appointed an independent law firm to advise her on the process.
She said the firm would undertake an urgent independent audit of the rights allocation process to ensure it complied with all relevant policies and legislation.