Tuesday, October 10, 2006

what is this world coming to?

October 10, 2006 Edition 2

Melanie Gosling

THE Marine Living Resources Fund, which had R53 million in its coffers at the end of March 2005, is now R45m in debt.The fund is the operational budget of the Department of Environment' s Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), which is tasked with managing thecountry's multibillion- rand fishing industry.The financial crisis facing MCM is likely to affect almost every facet of the fishing industry, from the control of illegal fishing to thecountry's international markets.

The annual budget for the 2005/06 financial year was slashed to less than the budget of 2002.Yet MCM's travel and entertainment costs have gone up from just overR2m in 2004/05 to R23m in 2005/06.Lack of money has meant that MCM scrapped its annual scientific hake survey in 2005, the first time this survey has not been run since itsinception in the 1970s. The survey forms the basis of MCM's setting quotas for how much hake can be caught the following year. The fishingindustry pays levies on hake landed, in order to fund the research surveys.

Other services that were cut were a scientific trip to Marion Island in December, the Marines anti-poaching project in the Overstrand and the Smit-Amandla contract for anti-pollution control and fishing surveillance. Marine pollution, such as oil spills, is regarded as one of the biggest threats to marine resources.MCM carried out no significant anti-poaching trips on the high seas last year, nor any joint international training programmes to curb illegal fishing.MCM has not created any new fisheries since 2004, although its three-year business plan commits it to introducing three new fisheries in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Many of these issues were published in Feike News, the newsletter of acompany called Marine Regulatory Law and Environmental ManagementAdvisors, run by former MCM head Horst Kleinschmidt and former MCMchief director Shaheen Moolla.Kleinschmidt said in an interview: "We are not interested in name-calling, but we need to set the record straight. MCM is now making out that they inherited a financial mess we created, that they inherited a fund that was broke. That is simply not true. In 2004/05 we ran MCM and all its vessels on our budget, and we still came outwith R53 million in the kitty.

"MCM also makes out that we committed them to excessive expenditurebecause of the running costs of the patrol vessels. The fact is that the patrol vessels were commissioned by parliament in 1998, when Monde Mayekiso was head of MCM and Pallo Jordan was environment minister.

"The new state-of-the- art vessels are regarded as essential in curbing illegal fishing inshore and to patrol the country's exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles out to sea.Moolla said when he managed MCM's vessels, he budgeted for running costs of between R88 million and R150 million a year, depending on the price of fuel and on how many days the vessels were in use.

"We used to charter the vessels to pay for their costs. For instance,the European Union paid e30 000 for a 5-day charter. The Eagle Star now lies in the harbour doing nothing, but we chartered it for up to 260 days a year," he said.Moolla queried how MCM could justify the R30 levy on every kilogram of commercial abalone caught. He said the levy had been increased to this amount with the blessing of the legal abalone industry in order to fund the Marines anti-poaching unit in the Overstrand. But the Marines had been disbanded in July.

The Cape Times asked the department of environment' s communications department in Pretoria for comment, but had not received a reply at the time of going to press.


sarah said...

i dont know what its doing helly... the world is an odd odd odd odd place and i guess all we can do is sit and pretend that we are doing something helpful!

oh - before i forget again, got the earrings at a shop in killarney called 'good times'!

Helen said...

Good times!