• A draft new law on the aquaculture industry has been revived and is heading for Parliament.
  • It imposes new regulations on crocodile farming, and adds licensing requirements for anyone involved in commercial fish breeding.
  • The industry is not impressed.

Members of the aquaculture industry are up in arms about the government’s proposed new Aquaculture Development Bill (ADB) which is to be tabled in Parliament soon. They say the bill will destroy the industry through overregulation and red-tape instead of developing it.

Controversy also surrounds the inclusion of crocodile farming in the aquaculture sector.

The draft bill was released for public comment late last week, after being stuck in limbo for more than two years.

Prof. Gerry Swan, chairperson of the SA Crocodile Industry Association (SACIA) says the proposed Bill will add another layer of laws to crocodile farming. “Crocodile farming is already adequately dealt with under the Environmental Management Act and crocodiles are not aquatic animals,” he says.

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Swan says the new law would just mean more permits and is a duplication of control that would deter investment and not promote it.

Nicholas James, the owner of Rivendell Tilapia Hatchery outside Grahamstown and a fresh water fish consultant, says the new bill will destroy the fresh water aquaculture industry because of the additional regulations required. The ADB will also deter new entrants into the market “because they will have to get a licence from the government before they can do anything.”

He says the cost of enforcing the bill does not justify the size of the sector. “The government is going to spend millions to patrol and control a very small industry,” he says.

He cites the example of a R5 million aquaculture farm that was recently opened near Livingstone in Zambia. “That kind of investment will never happen here, because the regulatory environment is so bureaucratic,” says James. He says the new bill has everything to do with control and nothing with development.

A koi farm in the Western Cape. (Gallo)

The result is that instead of creating new jobs and new developments, the ADB will stifle it, says James.

Both the Aquatic Association of South Africa, Aquaculture SA and the SACIA have made numerous appeals to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) not to go ahead with the Bill, without success.

A spokesperson for DAFF was unavailable for comment. 

The bill was first proposed – and a legally required summary of it was published in the Government Gazette – in February 2016. It was revived this month, with a view to parliamentary proceedings starting in the second half of the year.

As it stands the law requires various levels of licensing for any activity where there is human intervention in raising aquatic organisms, even if it is only protecting them from predators. Breeding ornamental fish is also included.

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