White Rose may keep bagging sharks — for now

The demersal shark long line fishing vessel White Rose
The demersal shark long line fishing vessel White Rose
Image: DANIELLE CONRY

Until the court case against the Port Elizabeth-based shark long liner White Rose has been finalised, the vessel has the right to continue plying its trade.

That was the word from the department of environment, forestry and fisheries on Monday.

The case against the White Rose, which was allegedly caught fishing in the De Hoop Marine Protected Area in the Western Cape a year ago, has been postponed to July.

The vessel, owned by Unathi-Wena Fishing, was spotted fishing off the Port Elizabeth beachfront on April 18-19, just a few days before it was due to appear in court in connection with the De Hoop matter.

Unathi-Wena Fishing is headquartered in the Bay.

That same weekend, the White Rose also featured in a prime-time television exposé about the environmental destruction apparently resulting from SA’s demersal shark long line sector — and the link to the Australian “flake and chips” fast food industry.

The Bay sighting was quickly aired on social media, raising a storm of protest from the conservation and tourism fraternity, and The Herald sent questions to the department.

The White Rose was apprehended for allegedly fishing in the De Hoop Marine Protected Area between Infanta and Arniston in the Western Cape in April 2019 by authorities working under Operation Phakisa’s initiative five on integrated law enforcement.

Responding to questions about the vessel’s presence in the Bay in April,  department spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said until the case had been finalised the White Rose had the right to continue plying its trade.

“This [De Hoop] case was investigated by the department and consequently transferred from the Port Elizabeth to the Bredasdorp Magistrate’s Court.

“The case was postponed to April 22 and section 28 administrative proceedings in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act are currently under way against the owners of the vessel.

“Legally, only after a decision by the delegated authority has been made can that the vessel be stopped from fishing.

“This is in terms of the requirements of the law, that the other party must be given an opportunity to be heard.”

Asked how the case was proceeding, given the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Nqayi said the matter had since been postponed by three months.

“The criminal case against the vessel and the right holder was postponed in the Bredasdorp Magistrate’s Court to 22 July 2020.”

The department’s senior communications official, Albi Modise, said a comprehensive statement was being formulated on concerns raised about the demersal shark long line fishing sector that would answer The Herald’s additional questions.

These included why the apparent recommendation by department scientists to urgently implement quota limits was not being implemented, and why demersal long line fishing was allowed during the day while other long liners were prohibited from doing so because of the danger posed to seabirds, which snap up the baited hooks.

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