The low levels of West Coast Rock Lobster (kreef) due to overfishing has led to an extremely high risk of the species becoming commercially extinct within the next five years. This will have significant ecological and socio-economic consequences.
The World Wildlife Fund-SA (WWF-SA) has taken the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to court over its alleged failure to heed scientific advice relating to the total allowable catch (TAC) of the West Coast Rock Lobster and therefore its failure to sustain the long-term survival of the crustacean.
The Western Cape High Court will hear the WWF-SA’s semi-urgent notice of motion on 22 August 2018 when the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape will also apply to be friends of the court (amicus curiae) in the case brought against the DAFF.
The conservation organization first approached the court on 27 June, contesting the department’s decision to set the 2017/18 TAC at an unacceptably high number, and in doing so undermining the crustacean’s long term survival as well as disregarding the rights of fishers who depend on the resource.
The WWF is asking the court to set aside the department’s decision to allocate a TAC of 1924,08 tons in the 2017/18 season because of inconsistencies in the decision-making process and on the basis that the decision was irrational and cannot sustain the long-term survival of either the rock lobster resource or the fishers that depend on it.
The WCRL is on the WWF’s red list
The West Coast Rock Lobster is on the WWF’s consumer advisory red list, which means consumers should not buy it.
Chief executive officer of the WWF-SA, Dr Morné du Plessis said: “Given the critical state of the resource and having exhausted all other options for engagement, WWF has been forced to approach the courts to challenge DAFF’s mismanagement of this important marine resource.
The DA joins the fray
The DA’s Western Cape spokesperson on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, Beverley Schäfer, said the DAFF failed to heed scientific advice relating to the TAC of rock lobster.
The DA supports the WWF’s case against the DAFF and will be applying to contribute evidence in support of its submissions on behalf of those vulnerable to the department’s gross mismanagement in the province.
One man illegally drained the oceans for 14 years
While ordinary South Africans rarely have the privilege of tasting even one bite of West Coast Rock Lobster, one man made millions by illegally draining our oceans of the protected crustacean and exporting it to the US.
A US court ordered convicted lobster poacher Arnold Bengis to pay South Africa’s DAFF about R479 million for catching thousands of tons of rock lobster over 14 years. In addition, the 81-year-old was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.
Between about 1986 and 2000 Bengis was responsible for poaching West Coast Rock Lobster and illegally importing it to the US, resulting in a decline in rock lobster numbers.
Bengis has refused to pay, shielding his assets in foreign trusts. He has dual South African and US citizenship and is currently living in Israel.