FOSAF NEWS - Report on the Mpumalanga Trout Association’s meeting at Walkersons on 21/01/2016

Introduction

The meeting which included the MTA’s first AGM was well attended. The MTA was particularly pleased to welcome Mr Stemmer Ndala, A chief director of Aquaculture responsible for aquaculture at DARDLEA (Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land & Environmental Affairs) along with his colleagues Patricia Noku and Stephen Goetz. The meeting commenced with a short address from Mr Ndala from DARDLEA followed by presentations by Ilan Lax of Trout SA (TSA) and FOSAF, Steve Vincent of Millstream and Richard Viljoen who is running the Trout SA’s mapping project.

 

Mr Ndala’s Address

Mr Ndala said that traditionally fisheries management was a low priority at DARDLEA but this was changing. He apologised on behalf of the HOD who could not attend due to other commitments, but said that the MEC needed to meet with the MTA as the trout value chain was an important one.  He stressed the importance of transformation in the process of growing the trout value chain and aquaculture in particular. He explained that his mandate as an official was to support the trout value chain, but emphasised that this did not mean that the value chain should only speak to the department through him. He said that the trout value chain also needed to speak directly to the politicians such as the MEC.

Presentation by Ilan Lax

Ilan Lax delivered a presentation (click here) following up on the one Ian Cox had given in July 2105 (click here for Ian Cox’s presentation) explaining where the trout value chain had come from and was going to.

He said that while a lot had been achieved environmental officials were opposed to the implementation of the agreement that had been reached at the Phakisa Ocean Labs Conference in Durban in July 2014. This was despite that agreement being confirmed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Provincial environmental MEC’s at a MINMEC meeting that took place in the middle of 2105.

It was agreed at operation Phakisa inter alia that:

  • Trout would not be listed as invasive where they already occur outside certain proclaimed nature reserves but would be self-regulated by the trout value chain through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)in those areas. No permits would be required in order to stock trout in these areas.
  • Trout would be listed as invasive in category 2 invasive in those proclaimed nature reserves and where they do not presently occur but could occur if they were introduced. Permits would be required to introduce trout in these areas and these permits would only be issued after a risk assessment had been undertaken.
  • Areas where trout occur would be mapped so that those areas where they could occur but presently do not occur can be identified.
  • Prosecutions would be held in abeyance while the trout situation was regularised.

 

He said the frustration of the Phakisa agreement by environmental officials was evidenced by the lack of consultation last year regarding the implementation of the agreement, especially around the mapping process and the terms upon which trout would be self-regulated.  As a consequence meetings were called off at short notice and representations that had been made were ignored.

One of the consequences of this was that provincial officials were being misinformed regarding the purpose of the mapping process and the content and purpose of the Phakisa agreement. Another was the failure of some provincial authorities to respect the terms of what had been agreed. He said that this was particularly apparent in Mpumalanga where MTPA officials who were ignoring the Phakisa agreement, the Constitution as well as national and provincial laws in their efforts to control the trout value chain in the province.

He said the actions of the MTPA officials were causing uncertainty in the value chain which was having harmful impacts on the value chain and the economy of the area. 

He said that Trout SA had consequently escalated the matter to the Director Generals of Environmental Affairs and DAFF as well as the head of the Phakisa office in the Presidency. Christmas had intervened which is why TSA had been unable to meet with the DG but he expected news of a meeting within the week.

He pointed out that this was not enough in Mpumalanga where attempts to discuss unilateral actions taken by the MTPA against the trout value chain in the province had failed. He said that “decisive action” needed to be taken against officials who acted in contempt of the law suggesting that costs be sought against those officials personally in the event of litigation. He also pointed out that they were liable for the damages that their unlawful actions caused despite what any endorsement on the permit may say to the contrary.

Ian Cox spoke briefly on the way forward after Ilan Lax’s presentation saying that environmental authorities have failed to understand how the environmental right worked as a constitutional right and having regard to the environmental principles set out in the National Environmental Management Ac t or NEMA. As a result environmental officials were losing cases because they could not show that they had ticked all the constitutional boxes when trying to formulate and implement environmental law. He said that there was consequently an opportunity to successfully challenge what environmental officials were doing in Mpumalanga.

Presentation by Richard Viljoen

Richard presented briefly on how the mapping information had been complied and what principles had been adopted in preparing these maps. He said that these maps were available online at (click here) or could be obtained by contacting him via his contact details. Much of his presentation was delivered from the map database itself and is not thus available as a PowerPoint presentation. Gerrie Van Der Merwe pointed out that these maps which were extremely detailed could be used by farmers in the area as a planning tool as well as to promote trout venues and the trout value chain. This of course will be at an additional cost.

 

Presentation by Steve Vincent

Steve Vincent, whose presentation can be accessed by clicking here, gave a powerful presentation on the contribution the trout value chain in Dullstroom and its surrounds is making to the community. He pointed out that trout tourism was by far the biggest reason tourists visited Dullstroom and thus was an important driver of the economy.  Not many of those present at the meeting realised that research undertaken by Gareth Butler in 2012 showed that over 20% of the people employed in Dullstroom were employed in the trout value chain. Likewise few realised that the trout value chain was the main source of employment of the nearby Sakhelwe Township.

Presentation Justin Bower

Justin gave a short but valuable presentation on how the MTPA intended mapping and regulating  trout in Mpumalanga - see

http://mtpa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=3655bbd1571b4d3a82baf5e667137351. Justin’s presentation underscored what Ilan had said about environmental officials ignoring the Phakisa Agreement in that according to the MTPA the sale and stocking of live trout where they already occur outside the nature reserve that Ilan referred to will require a permit everywhere but in the case of dams that are not connected to rivers (i.e. not “instream”). Over 80% of the trout dams in Mpumalanga are instream. Furthermore certain areas where trout occur, even some areas within scheduled trout waters where trout are specially protected have been mapped on the basis that trout do not occur there. He pointed out the MTPA was of the view that this had been the result of extensive internal deliberation and was not open to discussion.

Discussion

A lively discussion followed with some participants, Tim Brewer in particular, saying that he did not see what the problem was as most property owners were getting their permits. Tim in particular disputed the Phakisa agreement saying that he had never seen it. Though he had paid heavily for not being properly permitted he could see the need for permits and supported what the MTPA was doing. He said that the lawyer approach was alienating the MTPA which was why they did not want to meet with the MTA, Trout SA or FOSAF.

This was not the prevailing view of the meeting. The general consensus was that while there was a need to maintain a good working relationship with the MTPA this was not possible when the MTPA refused to consult, but rather implemented unilateral measures that greatly increased the uncertainty in the value chain. It was pointed out that this approach was not only unlawful, but also created a great deal of uncertainty that was destructive of the value in the trout value chain. A great deal of the discussion centred on the permitting system and the changes that had taken place and those that were being proposed. Again some of those present, notably Tim Brewer supported the new permitting regime saying that although he had been guilty of not permitting in the past he now accepted that this was necessary.  Again the general view was that what was being done was unsatisfactory.

It was pointed out that there were no regulations or policy which informed the development of these new “rules” and no consultation with key stakeholders on the effect they would have. Written requests for further explanation were ignored and meetings arranged to discuss these issues were cancelled because environmental officials were not prepared to attend. For example: between   August and November 2015 at least 3 meetings had been arranged in Nelspruit and then cancelled at short notice by non-availability of MTPA officials. This mirrored the situation at national level where towards the end of 2015 meetings in Pretoria to discuss the mapping process had been cancelled at short notice. It was therefore concluded that the meetings were avoided because Conservation realised that their actions did not comply with government policy nor the Phakisa agreement of 2014.

It was pointed out that even if you accepted that the MTPA could still enforce the permitting regime set out in the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act despite the contrary provisions of NEMBA, the ordinance itself did not entitle the MTPA to do what it was trying to do because the purpose of the MNCA was to protect the trout value chain within the scheduled fly fishing waters. 

Ian Cox pointed out that nature conservation authorities in South Africa had used permitting regimes such as this one to oppress black communities by restricting their access to and use of resources for over 125 years,. What was happening was that these tactics were now being applied to the trout value chain.

He also pointed out that it was not just the trout value chain that was the victim. Attempts to grow aquaculture  such as the strategically important tilapia farming sector were also being blocked by the MTPA despite the fact that cabinet had decided at a national level that aquaculture must be promoted.

Ilan Lax pointed out that the MTPA could not ignore the national process that was directed at growing the trout value chain where trout already occur.

Emerging Issues

The general lack of understanding around permitting, how it had once worked and how it was going to work emerged as a real issue. Patricia Noku suggested that we prepare a report on how the permitting system had operated giving example of the permits that had been issued so that this could be sent to government. This suggestion was enthusiastically received.

It was also evident that the relationship that the trout value chain is building with national and provincial fisheries/agriculture departments is an important one that needs to be nurtured. The general track of current engagements was in the right direction and needed to be encouraged.

There was strong desire to improve relations with the MTPA, but while some thought the legal approach was destroying this relationship to the point where the MTPA were frightened to meet with the trout value chain. However, the general sense was that a working relationship with the MTPA was only possible if the authority was working within the law as directed by government policy. This was not the case at the moment.

It was necessary to build dialogue within the Mpumalanga government to counter what the MTPA was doing. It was also necessary to maintain informal lines of communication into the MTPA where these existed. The relationships Justin has which enable him to gain access to the MTPA proposals for trout and the trout mapping areas in Mpumalanga.

Thanks and General

Finally, at the AGM the chairman thanked Walkersons for making the venue available at no charge and stated that the MTA now had 50 paid up members and R300 000 had been received since September by way of fees and contributions. This had allowed them to meet most of the outstanding debts. These included the very sophisticated shape files prepared by Richard Viljoen, legal fees and also loans made by Lunsklip Fisheries. On the other hand some 150 permits were issued annually so there was no reason why we should not double our membership within the next 6 months and thereby continue to finance future work which was all on a voluntary basis.

It was stressed that the apparent willingness of certain MPTA officials to engage with the sector should be taken up as not to do so in the face of the invitation to do so would be counterproductive.  This did not require a change of message, but rather the frank and open exchange of views and objectives.

Application for membership of the MTA may be obtained by contacting Peter at mwardern@mweb.co.za

 

List of links contained in this Press Release:

Presentation by Ilan Lax: 
http://www.fosaf.co.za/documents/160121%20Presentation%20MTA.pptx

Presentation by Ian Cox: 
http://www.fosaf.co.za/documents/Presentation-by-Ian-Cox-Walkersons24072015.pdf

Presentation by Richard Viljoen:

http://www.fosaf.co.za/RichardViljoenMaps.php

Presentation by Steve Vincent:

http://www.fosaf.co.za/documents/TROUT%20VALUE%20ADDED%20CHAIN%202016%20(e).pdf

MTPA's map - Justin Bower:

http://mtpa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=3655bbd1571b4d3a82baf5e667137351

 

 

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