The history of SADSTIA
By Charles Atkins
Prior to the negotiation of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention – which took place between 1973 and 1982 – there was no effective control of fishing in coastal waters of any country and no coordinated conservation measures. The Law of the Sea Treaty, formally known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS III, established a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans. Importantly, UNCLOS encompassed the right of a coastal nation to implement exclusive fishing rights over its adjacent continental shelf to a distance of 200 miles (370 km) from its coastline.
South Africa declared its exclusive fishing zone (EFZ) in November 1977 and immediately started implementing regulatory and conservation measures over its fishery resources. These developments and the accession of South Africa to the International Commission for South East Atlantic Fisheries (ICSEAF), had awakened the deep sea trawling industry to the need for an industry association which could speak on behalf of the industry and facilitate cooperation between members on matters of common interest.
The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) was duly founded in 1974 with three companies – I&J, Sea Harvest and Amalgamated Trawling – being the founder members. At the time, I&J held 72% of quotas in the fishery. The three companies were represented by Nico Bacon, Eckart Kramer and John Griffiths, respectively. In 1994, the association became a “Recognised Industrial Body” in terms of the then Sea Fisheries Act dated 1973. Accordingly, it could make nominations for the entire deep sea trawling industry for representation on the Sea Fisheries Advisory Council (SFAC). The SFAC was composed of representatives of the fishing industry and other, related sectors and was responsible for making recommendations to the minister about a wide variety of fisheries related issues.
Over the past 34 years, SADSTIA has played a central role in the growth and development of the South African deep-sea trawl fishery. Some of the events and debates that impacted on the industry over the years are detailed below.
- In 1978, a relatively small global hake total allowable catch (TAC) of 103 000 tonnes was set for south African waters and, a year later, individual company quotas were introduced for the first time. As can be imagined, the latter event led to frenetic lobbying and wheeling and dealing as it was incumbent on the industry to present agreement on the individual allocations for the minister’s approval. After 1979, substantial consolidation of the industry took place. Consolidation was stimulated by the poor condition of the resource due to overfishing by foreign trawlers and the astronomic increase in the cost of fuel in 1981.
- Two consecutive reductions in the hake TAC were implemented in 1981 and 1982. In each year, the TAC was reduced by 14% because the stock was deemed to be in very poor condition. The industry, in consultation with the department Agriculture, which was responsible for fisheries management at the time, supported these cuts on the understanding that the share in the resource by existing quota holders would not be prejudiced once the stock had recovered. The breach of this agreement was to lead to serious dissension with the minister responsible for fisheries in later years.
- In the mid-1980s, following the recovery of the hake stock and the gradual devaluation of the rand after 1984, the hake trawl industry became profitable for the first time in over a decade. This was in spite of the fact that fuel prices remained high. As a result of the new profitability, there was enormous pressure on the minister to allow new entrants into the industry, despite previous undertakings and promises. The minister succumbed to the pressure and six new quotas were granted.
- The controversy over the aspirations of new entrants and the rights of the established companies – not only in the deep sea fishery but also the other fishing sectors – led to the implementation of the Diemont Commission of Enquiry into the Fishing Industry (1985). The Commission’s recommendation for the establishment of a Quota Board was duly implemented in 1990. The Quota Board was an independent body whose task it was to allocate quotas and rights of exploitation across all sectors of the fishing industry. Despite its status as an independent body, it quickly became mired in allegations of corruption and nepotism. The issue of how best to accommodate new entrants to the fishing industry remained a thorny question and led to the establishment of the 80:20 principle for hake in 1985. In terms of this principle, 20% of any TAC increase would be allocated to newcomers.
- The advent of democracy in 1994 brought with it strong demands for the transformation of the fishing industry and the broadening of access to marine living resources. In 1995, the Fisheries Policy Development Committee was established to advise government on how best to transform the industry. The committee was headed by Mandla Gxanyana, formerly a senior office bearer with the Food and Agriculture Workers’ Union (FAWU) and as such became informally known as the “Mandla Committee”. However, the committee’s final recommendations, achieved after extensive debate and furious discussion, were largely ignored by the government.
- The promulgation of the Marine Living Resources Act in 1998 led to significant changes in the management and administration of fisheries in South Africa. However, the government was poorly prepared to implement new systems of allocation and inundated with applications for fishing rights from hopeful new entrants. It was only in 2000, when government embarked on a process to allocate medium-term fishing rights (2002 to 2005) and later long-term fishing rights (2006), that it managed to overcome the biggest legal difficulties associated with the allocation of rights. Interestingly, the process of allocating medium-term and long-term fishing rights gave rise to the first serious schism in SADSTIA. Prior to these allocations, the association had generally been able to reach a compromise consensus. It is worth noting that in preparing for the allocation of rights between 2000 and 2006, many members of SADSTIA pioneered black economic empowerment arrangements. They embraced the notions of black ownership, black management and affirmative procurement long before their counterparts in other industries.
- From 2000 to 2004, SADSTIA played a key role in harnessing industry and government support for the assessment and accreditation of the deep-sea trawl fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is an independent organization that uses a product label to reward environmentally responsible fishery management and practices. The deep-sea fishery achieved certification in 2004, a factor that has contributed substantially to the penetration of European markets by South African hake exporters.
 ICSEAF was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1972. It was a voluntary organisation which sought to manage fisheries in Angola, Namibia and South Africa from 1972 to 1989.