Fishcor right to turn back on SPP marriage

REVELATIONS that the temporary board of directors at Fishcor is currently pursuing options legal or otherwise on the termination of usage quota agreements between them and Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) are welcome, and come at a perfect time when priority should hinge on ensuring our country gets maximum benefit from its fishing resources.

The marriage between Fishcor and SPP that has also been subject of inquiry under the Fishrot scandal surely is one whose cooperation and designation agreements are clearly undesirable in the broader context of national development as they give leeway for a few individuals to cream millions off the horse mackerel Total Allowed Catch (TAC) for the next 15 years.

We also agree with the chairperson of Fishcor, Mihe Gaomab II who on behalf of his board this week highlighted that the agreements entered into in 2016 were against public policy interests, usurp the discretionary power of the Minister of Fisheries to allocate quotas in terms of the provisions of the Marine Resources Act and are contrary to the beneficial arrangement Fishcor ought to get.

While the agreements were signed by public officials that have since been arrested for their role in the Fishrot saga that is still under investigation, Fishcor partners at SPP and majority shareholders, Angola based African Selection Trust (AST) -which are also a South African registered company- have ignored this fact and have been acting in bad faith by using workers as a retrenchment bait to arm twist the Minister of Fisheries to grant them quotas or else, they will retrench the workers.

This is despite the concerted effort that government through Fishcor has made by allocating horse mackerel quotas to SPP. We are all aware that SPP was allocated 16 666.67mt quota on January 9 2020, 5 000mt on June 9 and 4 000mt on August 6 bringing the total allocation of horse mackerel quota allocation to 25 667mt for the year 2020. For SPP to go on and threaten government after this kind of allocation is disheartening to say the least and speaks to hostage tactics that will regress our fishing industry which is on the brink of recovery.

The question of employment creation in the fishing industry is critical and the responsibility to ensure that we create more employment or at least keep existing employees rests on all industry stakeholders.  For this reason, we are also keen as societal watchdogs to understand what SPP did with the quota that was allocated to it, if the same quota of over 25 000mt has failed to keep the jobs for at least this fishing season.

In the spirit of transparency, progress and development, we call for an urgent solution on the tenets of the Fishcor and SPP marriage, a solution that considers the plight of the workers that were or are currently employed by the SPP processing factory and one that also considers our economy as a key beneficiary of the fish resources attached to this marriage.