The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Budget has been slashed by some R766 million (8.6%) to R8.2 billion for the 2020/21 financial year. How to work with what remains is the challenge, but the Minister says the reprioritised Budget will be used to create a “nature-positive future” for the country.
Presenting the Department’s Budget Vote to the media this week, Minister Barbara Creecy said the money surrendered was a collective contribution to the national COVID-19 response plan and to the post lockdown economic recovery initiatives.
Savings to minimise effect on the Department’s programmes came from advertorials, domestic and international travel, public meetings, stakeholder consultation and events, most of which are no longer possible under current conditions.
All capital spending has been postponed on the Department’s four entities while alternative funding is being sought. These are South African National parks (SANParks), South African National biodiversity Institute (SANBI), iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (iSimangaliso) and the South African Weather Service (SAWS).
None have been able to realise their usual income streams but by cutting back on now unachievable targets, some R39 million was transferred to iSimangaliso and R961 million to SANParks. This said the Minister “ensures the sustainability of our protected areas and the significant role they play in supporting our country’s mega-biodiversity.
“We have also ensured the future sustainability of our contribution to nature based tourism and its longer term employment potential.”
Other decisions have included shifting money earmarked for capital expenditure to prevent job losses in the four entities. This includes the weather prediction services which is essential for shipping and aviation purposes and the extensive programmes of scientific research coordinated by SANBI.
The fishing industry
Where the fishing industry is concerned Minister Creecy said the focus for the foreseeable future was in five areas (including small-scale fishing rights):
The allocation of long term fishing rights which is critical to attracting investment into the industry. The revised period for the commencement of the 2020/21 FRAP process for the granting of commercial fishing rights was published on 26 June 2020 for comments. The Department’s plan has been revised to meet the deliverables and timeframes. It Begins. FRAP 2020 / 21
The Aquaculture Bill will provide policy certainty without over-regulation. Minister Creecy said it was important to stabilise this sector and the 4875 jobs it currently sustains. Consultations on the Bill are being finalised and she hopes to bring the Bill to the house next year. Coupled to this is the need to secure sustainable markets for aquaculture products. This is crucially important at a time when Asian markets have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and SA producers face competition from cheap imports. The Department is currently working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the industry to identify and secure new international and domestic markets.
Securing the safety of domestic fish stocks is central to a sustainable fishing industry. High quality scientific information to inform management decisions is the cornerstone of sound fisheries management. This capacity needs to be rebuilt in partnership with other branches, industry and tertiary institutions. This year some 300 catch data monitors will be deployed across the four coastal provinces to record catch information.
Preventing the illegal harvesting of marine resources. To date total confiscations of illegal catch amount to more than R13 million. The next step is to undertake a marine and coastal sectoral threat, risk and opportunity analysis to inform where we should focus at a strategic and operational level.
Small-scale fishing sector
The Minister noted that small-scale fishers must be properly recognised and said that by October, Western Cape small-scale fishers will have received their 15-year rights.
“This will conclude a small-scale 15-year right allocation process to over 10500 fisher men and women organised into 110 co-operatives nationwide,” she said.
“The rights allocation process is a first step to formalising and developing small scale fishers, who even before the Covid 19 Pandemic, faced enormous inequality, insecurity and barriers to economic participation.”
On 18 July – Mandela Day – the Minister spent her 67 minutes with the World Wildlife Fund, meeting representatives from fishing communities in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape. For the past eight years, the WWF marine team has been working closely with small-scale fishers in Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond. This year WWF teamed up with its partners to put together food vouchers and care parcels for distribution to 94 active members of the Kogelberg fishing community to help them and their families through this time of crisis.
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