DAFF's blunders put 5,000 jobs at risk - Pieter van Dalen

DA MP says loss of MSC membership threatens hake exports to Europe and the US

Tina should have been the first to go - at least 5000 jobs at risk

In the latest in a series of blunders, the Fisheries Department has single-handedly ensured that South African hake exporters will lose access to key North American and European markets (see Business Day report). 

By failing to secure the continued accreditation for South Africa's hake trawl industry by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), upon which the continued sale of South Africa's trawl hake to Europe and the US is contingent will be blocked. The major retailers will not purchase fish that is harvested unsustainably. 

In response, one of Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's officials very glibly told producers to identify new markets. New markets are not developed overnight. The loss of MSC membership puts at least 5,000 jobs in jeopardy and threatens to seriously injure a R2.3 billion a year industry.

Government seems content to flitter away the decade of work done by the SA government and the deep-sea hake trawling industry to attain MSC accreditation. The certification is contingent upon specified patrols and monitoring - which has fallen by the wayside under Tina's watch. This is a direct consequence of the bungling of the R800 million tender to perform critical fisheries research on state-owned marine patrol vessels. No contingency plans were made following the Sekunjalo debacle, and those vessels now sit idle in Simons Town harbour. 

Departmental spokesperson Lionel Adendorf had the gall to say that ‘it is worth noting that MSC is not the only eco-label... It therefore does not mean SA will have no access to the European markets, but that our white fish will not be available in certain stores where MSC is a requirement'. 

This is the kind of sheer ignorance that is encouraged to flourish under Ms Joemat-Pettersson's leadership.

It is her responsibility, under the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), to ensure that government does everything in its power to create an institutional framework that spurs the development of sustainable industry.

We wonder when last Mr Adendorf did the hard work of trying to secure consumer markets for a product. Markets take years to develop and the loss of lucrative developed markets in North America and Europe means that jobs will be the first casualty. South Africa cannot afford this incompetence. 

Not only is the deep-sea hake industry in trouble, but research for the pilchard and anchovy sectors have also been botched. The pilchard and anchovy sectors are worth R185 million and R573 million respectively and directly employ some 15,000 people.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson has brought an industry to its knees. She must be held to account for allowing research and patrol vessels to lie useless in Simons Town harbour whilst jobs are destroyed.

If real job performance informed the criteria for President Zuma's cabinet reshuffle this week, Tina should have been the first to go.

Statement issued by Pieter van Dalen MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, June 14 2012

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