The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is a major player in government’s blue economy initiative under the Operation Phakisa umbrella and this week said it would “galvanise” itself and law enforcement agencies to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
The comments come as the Hawks arrested 16 people in Gansbaai in the Western Cape on Monday in a sting operation over abalone poaching. Eight of those arrested are officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The officials apparently assisted poachers in the area and will this week appear in the Hermanus Magistrates Court on charges of corruption, racketeering and defeating the ends of justice.
Vico Thembalethu, Acting Chief Director: Monitoring Control and Surveillance, said abalone poaching is part of the IUU fishing problem which in its entirety “threatens world food security and ecosystems”.
“South Africa is not exempt from this and DAFF has galvanised law enforcement agencies through Operation Phakisa to deal with IUU fishing,” he said, adding the national department responsible for the continued well-being of South Africa’s oceans understands the need for “organised international communities to work collaboratively in dealing with it”.
This has seen the country ratify the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Port State Measure agreement. Its major objective is to combat IUU fishing.
DAFF, he said, played an integral role in enhancing collaborative efforts through the relevant SADC (Southern African Development Community) structures and those of Interpol to curb IUU fishing in the region.
The blue economy component of operation Phakisa comprises marine transport and manufacturing; offshore oil and gas; aquaculture; marine protection services and ocean governance.
Apart from the DAFF fleet of fisheries control and research vessels, the SA Navy is the other contributor to the marine protection services set out in Phakisa’s blue economy vision. This is currently done utilising existing platforms such as SAS Drakensberg, the Valour Class frigates and Warrior Class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) which are converted strikecraft.
The SA Navy was originally seeking six additional hulls to boost its patrol capabilities, both in- and offshore, for Phakisa. Financial limitations have seen the inshore component removed with Cape Town-based Damen Shipyards named the successful bidder for the three offshore vessels.
Indications are the first OPV will be handed to the SA Navy around the third quarter of 2021 to take some of the maritime patrol load off the existing fleet.