- With an unexplained migration of rock lobsters eastwards the South African coast, the country's environmental authorities used the opportunity to give lobster catching rights to what they call "historically disadvantaged persons." 274 new lobster rights holders now hope to establish a new local industry east of Cape Town.
The South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism this week published the first ever allocation of commercial west coast rock lobster allocations in three areas east of Cape Hangklip in Western Cape. These areas are Kleinmond, Hermanus and Gansbaai, three small coastal towns east of Cape Town.
A total of 274 rights have been allocated, the South African Ministry reported yesterday. "Some 93 percent of the right holders are historically disadvantaged persons," the Ministry added.
The first ever commercial lobster allocation of rights in these three areas is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the availability of lobster in the area east of Cape Hangklip is due to unexplained scientific phenomena that have seen the west coast rock lobster slowly migrate east.
Secondly, the allocation of lobster rights in these three areas comes at a time when the abundance of abalone in this area is at a historical low due mainly to poaching, thus creating a need for alternative industries in the area.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr Valli Moosa, had initially set a total allowable catch of 100 tons for the three areas; 40 tons each for Kleinmond and Hermanus and 20 tons for Gansbaai.
However, for the 2003/2004 lobster season, the Minister, "recognising that the abundance of abalone is at an all time low in the area and that this area includes dependent fishing communities," decided to instead allocate a total of 230 tons of lobster for the three areas, according to the Ministry.
The 274 new lobster rights holders have been given an opportunity over the next two years to invest in and develop the lobster industry east of Cape Hangklip. The right holders - 47 in Kleinmond, 164 in Hermanus and 63 in Gansbaai - have been allocated rights of between 500 kg and 1000 kg.
The department had taken the view that 500 kg is a reasonable quantum for a fishery in its very infancy. South African lobster, when exported to the USA, recently has been sold for over rand 200 (euro 25) per kg, while fishermen locally receive much lower prices.
In allocating the amounts the department noted that it had "adopted a cautionary approach in that it decided to rather allocate a reasonable amount for the coming lobster season and thereafter, should the abundance of lobster in the area stabilise and poaching levels decrease, greater amounts could be allocated to right holders for the 2004/2005 season."
- The department believes that the first ever commercial allocation of lobster rights, coupled with the fact that more and more communities are realising that poaching only destroys their oceans and communities, will result in a decrease in poaching levels in the area east of Cape Hangklip, according to the statement.
While the South African government is hoping to establish a new industry for the mostly impoverished fishing population of the region, hopes of putting an end to abalone poaching however may seem too optimistic. While the price per kg for lobster has reached rand 200, abalone prices have reached even more unprecedented levels, currently over rand 1,000 per kg.
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