Something fishy in permit furore?

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Copy of ca p4 Fishing Boats done INLSA Fishermen whose rights applications were denied by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries listen to an address by pastor Norman Frost outside the Oceana Power Boat Club. Photo: Henk Kruger

Durban - Traditional line fishermen whose permits were not renewed have started receiving their score sheets from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries which outline why applications for the renewal of fishing permits were declined.

This follows an uproar as hundreds of fishermen who had permits over the last seven years were declined them at the end of last year.

From the beginning of this month, only 115 of the more than 450 permits available nationally were awarded to existing permit holders. One hundred were allocated to new entrants.

Although not all 52 permits previously granted in KZN were in use, only 18 were renewed. There were seven new entrants in KZN.

When fishermen in the Western Cape threatened action to voice their discontent last week, an emergency meeting was held with the department.

SA Commercial Linefish Association chairman Wally Croome said a resolution reached in this meeting was a lifeline to fishermen in the form of an exemption, allowing them to go to sea pending appeals.

The association’s KZN chairman, Len Harvey, said: “These guys have not been able to go out to sea since December. The weather here allows for an average of 10 fishing days per month so the time they have missed has consequences on their income.”

Harvey, himself a fisherman for 23 years, was granted a renewal, but has been assisting those who were not.

“Some of the fishermen who were granted short-term permits in 2005 and then the long-term permits in 2007, which expired on December 31 last year, were unsuccessful. That doesn’t make sense.”

Croome said the association was focusing on the exemptions at the moment.

KZN fishermen must prove that they fished for 150 days between 2007 and 2012 in order to be granted an exemption.

The temporary reprieve had shifted fishermen from “utter despair to absolute joy,” said Croome.

But they were not out of the woods yet and would be taking legal advice when completing the appeal forms, “so we know what to do and what not to do”.

The association was hoping to get more fishermen back in the water after this appeal process, which is due to take a month.

They were also hoping some of the new entrants, who have questionable credentials, would be struck off, opening up space for former permit holders.

“The 100 new entrants are a major bone of contention. It seems some of these people have no experience and misrepresented,” Croome said.

This spurred a call by the DA for a probe by the public protector into the allocation process.

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