Cape Town 071231- Kalk Bay fishermen are suffering from an apparent lack of fish. photo Daylin Paul reporter Jade Witten

Cape Town -

Fishermen who lost their traditional rights can carry on fishing until the court decides on the SA Commercial Line Fish Association’s application to have the fisheries department’s rights allocation process reviewed and set aside.

That was an interim order made by the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

The line fish association lodged an urgent application in the high court on February 14 to be allowed to carrying on fishing while the review application of the allocation process was heard.

The fishermen’s rights, given in 2005, expired at the end of December. They had applied to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to have their rights renewed, but were not successful.

The association claims the allocation process was flawed. In addition, unsuccessful applicants had been deprived of their right to appeal because the fisheries department had failed to give them proper reasons why they were not given rights. Without proper reasons, they could not formulate an appeal.

Neither Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson nor the acting head of the fisheries department, Desmond Stevens, opposed the urgent application.

The court order says the minister and Stevens had undertaken not to interfere with the applicants’ exercising their rights to continue fishing until April 30.

Joemat-Pettersson and Stevens will oppose the review application and must file answering papers before March 17. The association will file replying papers before March 31. The review application will be heard on April 24.

On Sunday, the day before the urgent application was heard, Joemat-Pettersson pre-empted the court order by announcing on Sunday that she was granting the line fishermen who had lost their rights an exemption to fish without rights until April 30.

Wally Croome, chairman of the SA Linefish Association, said on Monday he was “very happy” with the result of the urgent application.

“It’s what we asked for, to be allowed to fish until the court can decide on the rights application process. We’re very glad it happened.”

The deadline for fishermen to appeal against the fisheries department’s decisions regarding rights allocations was on Friday last week. Croome said the association had put in a “protest appeal” on Friday.

“We said we don’t have enough information from the department on why they turned down our application for rights, so we told them we can’t appeal because there is no data to base the appeal on.”

The scoresheets used by the department to score applicants when they applied have been controversial, with many line fishermen claiming the scoresheets did not score applicants on issues that the department was required to do. - Cape Times