Proposed amendments to marine act should not be used as red tape – experts

Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 25, 2024


While welcoming the proposed amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act, the South African International Maritime Institute (Saimi) has cautioned against these measures being used to increase red tape.

Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy published draft regulations last Friday relating to the entry of foreign fishing vessels into South African waters in terms of sections of the Marine Living Resources Act, for public comment.

The changes touch on the permit process, compliance and sanctions, among other issues, emphasising that vessels may not enter a port without a permit issued by the minister.

“The master or a representative of the owner of a vessel must, 10 days before entering a port, apply to the minister for a permit to enter the port.

… The master of a vessel must accommodate the boarding and inspection of a vessel by an authorised official at any time while in South African waters and a port,” the document reads. Sanctions for violations are up to two years’ imprisonment or a R2 million fine.

According to the minister, the changes aim to create a “discreet notification and permitting procedure” applicable to foreign fishing vessels that wish to traverse South African waters or enter port, as well as to domesticate relevant aspects of the Agreement on Port State Measures, to which South Africa is a party.

Saimi CEO Odwa Mtati said: “The proposed changes to the Marine Living Resources Act reflect the commitment to responsible and sustainable maritime practices, which give thought to a balanced consideration of the economic interests, environmental preservation and combating Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the moment, all of the above pose a major challenge to the development of the Oceans Economy in the country.

“By incorporating these measures into the country’s legislation, the efforts strengthen the ability to monitor and regulate activities within the country’s maritime domain.

“The progression to the acceptance of the changes should implore the government to strike a delicate balance between facilitating international trade, collaboration and safeguarding the marine resources. This should not be an increase in red tape, but a move to match the appropriate international frameworks and a focused approach to combating IUU fishing effectively.”

Carmen Mannarino of civic organisation in the small-scale fishing sector, Masifundise, said they believed IUU fishing by foreign vessels was especially big in the industrial sector and often went unreported.

“It’s important to protect South African waters from illegal unregulated fishing, especially when it’s at the ends of large fishing boats that are not South African. When it comes to large industrial fishing operations, we welcome any amendment that is trying to deal with that.

“It’s important that we distinguish between legitimate fishing rods in tenure that people have as small-scale fishers, and industrial fishing operations.

Often I feel there is so much focus on going after the small-scale fishers, because there is an impression that industrial fishing is much more rationalised and much more controlled, but this isn’t the case. When we look at illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, I believe much of it happens in the industrial fishing sectors.

“We already have a strong regulation towards that, but unfortunately it’s not enforced,” Mannarino said.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed changes. Comments can be sent for the attention of Aphiwe Nonkeneza to [email protected]. For more information, call 021 402 3026 or 066 471 1451.

Cape Times