SA deep-sea trawling companies losing just 10% fishing quota spells catastrophe

CAPE TOWN – The impact for South African deep-sea trawling companies losing even 10 percent of their fishing quota could be catastrophic for the industry and lead to job losses should the fishing rights be allocated to more fishing companies.

This is according to Terence Brown, chairman of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA), following the association releasing the findings of an independent, industry-wide socio-economic study of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery in Cape Town yesterday.

Brown said long-term rights for 12 commercial fisheries will be allocated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF next year.

He said consultations with stakeholders around the policy that will underpin the fishing rights allocation process of 2020 are considered crucial and are expected to begin next month.

Brown said fishing companies that catch hake for local and international markets contribute R6.7 billion to the South African economy annually, have cautioned that sensible rights allocations are necessary to preserve international competitiveness and jobs in coastal areas.

He said there is a potential that companies could lose up to 44 percent of their quota should a change in policy take place.

“ The problem is that we can’t afford to lose even 10 percent of the business. Frankly speaking, we are a big business, we must accept that but we are also not a small scale fishery. When you are such a heavily capital intensive industry to lose one ton could be catastrophic,” said Brown.

He added that should the policy proceed it could lead to proportional job losses especially is small communities such as Saldanha Bay.

“The guy sitting next to you and me in Cape Town might not feel it but if I am sitting in my office in Saldanha, looking at the community, 200 to 300 jobs could be lost here. We have to consider of what is going to happen to these bigger and smaller companies sitting in the rural areas would lose these jobs. It will be quite catastrophic,” he said.

Brown added that similar processes conducted by DAFF in 2013 and 2015/2016 were highly controversial and characterised by lengthy delays, prolonged litigation, disruption of fishing and the destruction of value for individuals and companies invested in fishing.

The hake deep-sea trawl fishery is an industrial-scale fishery, it does not in any way compete for resources with small-scale fisheries because it fishes in deep, offshore waters that are inaccessible to small boats. To overlook the risky, capital-intensive nature of the deep-sea trawl industry, and the need for economies of scale in the catching and processing of Cape hake, would be to risk destroying this industry which currently provides compelling value and thousands of good jobs in coastal areas,” said Brown.

He said the socio-economic study released by the association yesterday was completed late last year by Genesis Analytics, a respected South African economics consultancy which quantifies for the first time, the socio-economic contribution of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.

Brown said Genesis’ researchers calculated that if the quotas of existing rights holders are reduced by 10 percent next year, the objectives of the Marine Living Resources Act and the National Development Plan would not be met and the socio-economic contribution of the fishery would be materially reduced, for little or no gain in economic or political transformation and would have a major impact on production costs, resulting in a forced restructuring of the industry and job losses.

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