ENDANGERED: The World Wildlife Fund-SA has taken the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to court over West Coast rock lobster over fishing. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Cape Town - The World Wildlife Fund-SA (WWF-SA) has taken the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) to court over its alleged failure to sustain the long-term survival of the West Coast rock lobster.

On August 22 the Western Cape High Court will hear the WWF’s semi-urgent notice of motion where the DA will be applying to be friends of the court.

The organisation first approached the court on June 27, contesting the department’s decision to set the 2017/18 total allowable catch (TAC) for the fishery at such a high number, thus undermining the crustaceans’ long term survival, disregarding fishers who depend on this valuable resource.

“WWF is asking the court to set aside the department’s decision to allocate a TAC of 1924 tons in the 2017/18 season because of inconsistencies in the decision-making process and on the basis that the decision was irrational and cannot sustain the long-term survival of either the rock lobster resource or the fishers that depend on it,” said the WWF.

The organisation said the rock lobster fishery supported many small-scale fishing communities in the Western and Northern Cape.

However, the population has declined dramatically over the past 50 years as a result of overfishing. The fishery had dropped to 1.9% of its original, prefished stock size.

“At such low levels, the risk of the species becoming commercially extinct is extremely high and will have significant socio-economic and ecological knock-on effects.”

The rock lobster is on the WWF’s consumer advisory red list, which means consumers should not buy it. Chief executive Dr Morné du Plessis, said: “Given the critical state of the resource and, having exhausted all other options for engagement, WWF has been forced to approach the courts to challenge Daff’s mismanagement of this important marine resource.

“History has shown that short-sighted fisheries management will only lead to the destruction of both the resources and the communities that depend on them.”

The DA’s Western Cape spokesperson on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, Beverley Schäfer, said Daff failed to heed scientific advice relating to the TAC of rock lobster.

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Cape Argus