WCRL catch reduction sparks outcry
DFFE announced TAC for WCRL is 28 percent less than last season
SOUTH AFRICA: After announcing a 28 percent reduction in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) season last week, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) has issued a statement confirming that assessments have concluded that stocks have decreased more than expected over the last two years.
The WCRL fishery has been experiencing challenges of rapidly declining stocks in recent years. Besides the sector being faced with increasing demand from fishing communities and the broader public for access to the resource, illegal fishing and the effects of climate change have also contributed to the vulnerability of the species.
According to DFFE, 2021 updated assessment indicates that WCRL number have decreased more than expected and, as opposed to being at 90% of its 2006 level as estimated in 2019, the resource is now estimated to be at only 70%. In recent decades WCRL populations have been at about 2.5% of the accepted pristine level in 1910. The number has, however, now dropped to about 1.5% of the pristine level.
The updated assessment makes it clear that the status of the resource is now appreciably worse than thought to be the case 12 months ago. The DFFE believes that a meaningful reduction in the TAC is necessary to rebuild the resource from its current 2021 level by 2025.
A TAC of 600 tons for the 2021/22 fishing season has been determined. The TAC for the 2021/2022 fishing season has been reduced by 28.3% from the previous fishing season (2020/2021).
The dismal allocation of resources was called out by Masifundise Environment Trust who pointed out that the allocation can only yield the pitiful amount of R6,000 per annum or R500 per month. The WCRL allocation has been reduced from 160kg to 35kg over several years.
Fishers from coastal communities such as Langebaan, Saldanha Bay, Paternoster, St. Helena Bay, Arniston, Lambertsbaai, Velddrift, and Buffelsjagbaai attended a public meeting at the beginning of the week to reject the announced allocation and vowed to take “mass action”.
The small-scale fishers understand that stocks are under pressure but believe they should be prioritised over the commercial sector as they depend on the resources for lives and livelihoods. “The cuts should be made in the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) which is used for the commercial sector,” said Naomi Cloete, a Coastal Links leader from Paternoster.
“Instead, the government marginalises the small-scale sector while it’s business as usual for the commercial sector. To make matters worse the government gives support to extractive industries that damage the oceans and make life more difficult for us,” she said.
Understanding that fishing communities, especially small-scale fishers, are more vulnerable to the impact of the reduction in the catch quota, the Department has met with community-based organisations and leaders in fishing communities to discuss improvement plans related to the Interim Relief Dispensation that include including additional species in the basket that can be harvested by fishing communities as well as implementing alternative and supplementary livelihood projects in fishing communities.
The Department is also aware that there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed and has proposed a number of measures to address these including:
- Increasing compliance-related efforts to combat poaching and over-fishing.
- Improving the collection and processing of poaching and local market sales statistics.
- Piloting a live traceability system.
- The deployment of catch data monitors along the South African coastline.
- Increasing the capacity and scope to monitor landings in the commercial, small-scale, and recreational fishing sectors.