Picture: Jason Boud
The Department of Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) has appointed a new three-member advisory panel to assist Minister Senzeni Zokwana on the 2015/16 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (Frap), which has frustrated scores of fishing communities.

Zokwana appointed advocate Patric Mzolisi Mtshaulana, Dr George Mukundi Wachira and Thulani Joseph Sithole to the advisory panel as he began with the evaluation of appeals lodged against the decisions taken during Frap 2015/16.

Earlier this year local fishing bodies and associations called on government to suspend all fishing rights of West Coast rock lobster until authorities take “radical remedial action” to put the red-listed species back on a sustainable path.

Daff spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said Zokwana intends to announce his decisions systematically and on a sector-by-sector basis in the coming weeks, starting with appeals lodged in the Hake Inshore Trawl Fishery followed by appeals lodged in the Patagonian Toothfish Fishery.

She said the panel has written to certain Category A and Category B appellants in the Hake Inshore Trawl Fishery inviting them to clarify any factual and/or legal issues they may wish to bring to Zokwana’s attention, but responses have been slow and certain appellants have requested additional time to make their submissions to the panel.

“This resulted in the minister and his Appeals Advisory Panel not being able to conclude the appeals in the Hake Inshore Trawl Fishery within the time period (set by the minister),” said Molapo.

An independent forensic company will be appointed to investigate the accuracy of the information submitted by applicants for fishing rights. The investigations will take place during and after the allocation process, she said.

“The forensic company will carry out investigations as and when required by the department.

“If any applicant is found to have provided false information or false documents or failed to disclose material information, or had sought to influence the minister of delegated authority, proceedings in terms of Section 28 of the Marine Living Resources Act will be undertaken and which may result in the revocation, suspension, cancellation, alteration or reduction of the rights granted,” Molapo added.

She said the high court-granted interim interdict in favour of fishing industry giant Viking Inshore Fishing has constrained the transformation agenda.

“We know the plight of the small fishing companies is at stake because of this pending judgment as we have continued to receive complaints on the losses they continue to suffer

To some these losses could be irreparable,” said Molapo.