02 December 2004

Fishing quota cheats sunk - Line fishermen are stripped of rights

Marine and Coastal Management authorities have revoked the rights of several commercial linefish quota holders, including a policeman, a senior navy official, a convicted perlemoen poacher and a man who had emigrated to New Zealand.

The department found that all had provided misleading information at the time they applied for quotas reserved by the department for traditional fishers.

Quotas are given when people can prove that they earn their income, or a substantial part of their income, from fishing.

The revocation of rights follows a new hardline approach by Marine and Coastal Management.

It told the Cape Argus: "The department will not tolerate a situation in which persons abuse the system by presenting misleading information or lying under oath in quota applications."

Senior officials said its verification unit was working with independent auditing firms to scrutinise applications sent in by prospective fishing quota holders and existing holders who wanted to retain their quotas.

They said they had also investigated calls made on the department's anonymous tip-off lines.

Shaheen Moolla, chief director of fisheries and coastal management for the Department of Environmental Affairs, said: "In the past almost no one was fined or prosecuted for misuse of the system, overfishing or blatantly lying under oath when submitting the quota application forms.

"What one has to realise is that our fisheries are under siege, and we are determined to maintain the integrity of the process and enforce the law."

In past months the department has issued 10 linefish quota holders with Section 28 notices revoking the lucrative permits that allow traditional fishers, or people who have a long association with fishing, to go out to sea and fish.

Section 28 of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 gives the ministry the right to revoke linefish quotas.

Source: Cape Argus


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