A Cape fur seal. Picture. Kristen van Schie

Cape Town - The government should consider allowing the harvesting of Cape fur seals as a means of job creation to compensate for several fisheries that have collapsed through overfishing, says ANC MP Meriam Phaliso.

During a briefing to the National Assembly’s portfolio committee by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, about renewed rights allocations in eight fisheries, Phaliso said the only point of concern was to find a humane way of killing the seals.

This had been the “bone of contention” by animal rights protesters and conservationists in 1990, when a five-year concession allowing a Taiwanese businessman to kill seal pups was cancelled at the last moment by then environment minister Gert Kotze following a huge outcry.

The concession would have allowed up to 100 000 pups and a number of bulls to be killed and processed for pet food, leather and aphrodisiacs in a Port Nolloth factory that had already been built.

Phaliso said the department needed to come up with a plan for harvesting of seals that would help open processing factories.

Seals are “the biggest poachers of some of the fish and nobody is arresting them... seals are a job-creating mechanism that can put food on the tables in some areas”.

 

The department’s acting deputy director-general with responsibility for fisheries, Desmond Stevens, briefed the committee on progress with allocating new fishing rights, or quotas, that are due to start on January 1 next year in eight sector-specific fisheries: KZN prawns, demersal shark, squid (chokka), tuna pole, hake handline, white mussels, oysters and traditional line fish.

They were among long-term rights allocated in 22 fisheries sectors for periods of between two and 15 years, during 2005/6 . The white mussel and oyster rights had expired in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and the other six expire on December 31.

Seven of the eight rights allocations are majority black-owned; the exception is traditional line fish which is 58% white-owned.

Stevens presented a “road map” for the allocation of these rights that ended with a verification and assessment process in October and November.

But the DA’s Annette Steyn said she was “really concerned” that the department would not be ready by year-end. Everything appeared to be in “fast-track mode”, and she asked what was being done in the meantime to prepare for the other 14 sectors where new allocations must start being made from August 1 next year (perlemoen).

“Do you have extra people in, will you work overtime, how are you going to cope? I can just see a crisis that’s going to happen.”

The department also has a draft revised general policy on the allocation of fishing rights and a Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill currently out for public comment. - Cape Argus