Issue No. 34
The Marine Living Resources Bill
6 May 1998
South Africa is endowed with a rich marine life, which over the centuries has provided a living for many people living along its coast. Unfortunately, once vibrant fishing communities have had their livelihood removed through poor management under the National Party. Communities that are dependent on fishing for their livelihood are now plagued with poverty and unemployment. Coastal areas that were once well stocked with fish have been exploited by large companies with little regard for the sustainability of the resource and face almost irreparable degradation through poor management of a resource we should preserve as a source of food and income for future generations.
The Marine Living Resources Bill, recently passed by the National Assembly seeks to protect these resources, to replenish our natural marine heritage and to protect South African waters from exploitation by foreign fishing interests.
OBJECTIVES OF THE BILL
- To manage our marine resources on a national basis
- To place control in the hands of the Minister and the department
- To ensure the sustainability of our marine resources
- To ensure that South African interests are served rather than foreign interests
- To broaden access to our marine resources through redistribution and development
- To create opportunities for disadvantaged fishers by developing small-scale fishing activities and becoming shareholders in larger enterprises
- To develop more affordable fishing methods
- To create a favourable business environment
- To license all those who participate in sea fishing
MAIN FEATURES OF THE BILL
The Bill provides for the creation of the Consultative Advisory Forum for Marine Living Resources, which will consist of members who are qualified to make a useful contribution to the regulation of marine resources. The minister can also recognise any industrial body or interest group in the fishing industry which represents a group of stakeholders.
All activities in terms of the Bill will be financed by the Marine Living Resources Fund. This fund will be financed by all fines, fees, and levies imposed by this or any other law which deals with marine resources.
No fishing will be allowed without a permit
This Bill makes it the responsibility of the Minister to determine the total allowable catch on a national basis, and the yearly quotas. The Minister will determine what proportion of the catch goes to commercial fishing, to recreational fishing, subsistence fishing and foreign fishing. The Minister will establish fishing management areas and will have the power to impose emergency restrictions if there is a crisis that may endanger fish stocks.
The environmental consequences of fishing activity are an important feature of the Bill. The Minister may require an environmental impact assessment before granting a permit.
Commercial fishing will only be allowed if a commercial fishing right, a permit and a vessel licence has been granted. The Minister will have to consider the need to t new entrants into the industry especially from disadvantaged groups. Only a South African will be permitted to undertake commercial fishing. Fishing rights can be leased or divided with the consent of the Minister.
The minister will be able to declare marine protected areas in order to protect the natural life of an area or to improve management of fish resources by allowing breeding to take place and increase resources, or to keep areas unspoilt for research purposes.
The Bill also provides for the establishment of the Fisheries Transformation Council which will deal with leasing rights for disadvantaged people, and the developing of small and medium enterprises which do not have fishing rights.
International agreements which allow foreign fishing in our waters must ensure that foreign states have the power to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreements as well as South African laws relating to fishing are complied with.
The Bill deals in detail with prohibited methods of fishing, and gives wide powers to fishery control officers to enforce the provisions of the Bill.
The Bill specifies the penalties for offences related to marine resources. Besides heavy sentences, a court is able to seize any vessel, equipment and catch . The Bill will make it easier to prosecute and convict offenders.
KEY POLITICAL MESSAGES
- Our marine resources belong to all South Africans. Through this Bill we will be able to manage and sustain these resources so that they are used effectively for the benefit of all South Africans
- The ANC is committed to improving access of disadvantaged South Africans to our natural resources. Through this legislation people who have been deprived of their traditional source of income, as well as those who have never had access to this sector of the economy, will be empowered to make a living out of our natural bounty.
- The ANC is committed to the sustainability of our natural resources and to sound environmental management. This legislation will protect the marine environment from short-sighted exploitation.
- The ANC is committed to the long-term rational management of our natural resources. We recognise that the interests of the country, as a whole, are more important than short-term, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
- Once again the ANC shows that it has the ability to balance the needs of the disadvantaged without destroying the viability of established commercial interests.
- Through short-sighted planning and greed the National party nearly destroyed our fishing industry and devastated many communities along our coasts. The ANC is committed to an efficient, viable and competitive fishing industry, providing maximum benefit to the broadest range of South Africans.