South African fishermen offload their catch of Rock Lobster on the dock of Cape Town\'s Kalk Bay harbour, September 17, 2003. Overfishing and widespead poaching have led authorities to apply strict quota\'s on most of South African fishing resources, including the \"red gold\" that has traditionally provided an income for many of the poor fishing communities along the country\'s west coast. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings---PICTURE TAKEN SEPTEMBER 17, 2003

Cape Town - The West Coast rock lobster recovery plan that aims to restore the population of this valuable seafood to at least 35 percent of its historical size in eight years will become legally enforced after being proclaimed in the Government Gazette.

This will be done to ensure there is no political interference in this process, at least until 2021.

This was announced by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson during last week’s portfolio committee meeting in parliament where she was tackled by members of all political parties, including the ANC, on a range of issues.

One of them was her department’s controversial management of the rock-lobster resource that is now estimated to be at only three percent of its pre- exploitation size, and which conservation group WWF-SA described as “currently under significant pressure and at a critical juncture”.

Joemat-Pettersson’s fisheries branch did a flip-flop over the 2012/2013 overall rock lobster quota – the total allowable catch.

It was initially decided to reduce the total allowable catch in line with the recommendations of the rock lobster scientific working group and with the operational management procedure, a set of rules agreed on by stake-holders in the particular fishery to meet agreed-on targets that may include rebuilding of a fish stock.

But this decision was later rescinded and the total allowable catch was restored to its original higher amount.

It was widely reported that this was because of political interference by Joemat-Pettersson, who had allegedly been lobbied by a single-quota holder unhappy at the prospect of getting a smaller allocation.

But this was denied at the portfolio committee meeting by the minister, who said scientists and officials in her branch had admitted making the change and that she wanted to “tighten up” the procedure so that it could not be changed by individuals.


Joemat-Pettersson confirmed that she had met WWF-SA earlier last week to discuss the conservation group’s concerns about the rock-lobster resource and the changed total allowable catch.

In a statement after that meeting, the group said had been “heartened” by her response.


But it also warned that it was “critically important” that effective monitoring, compliance and surveillance systems were put in place. - Cape Argus