Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson could on Thursday be compelled to halt the commercial fishing of west coast rock lobster, should the high court approve an application for an urgent interdict.

At issue is the contention of Western Cape environmental activist Judy Sole that the operational management plan of marine and coastal management as applied to lobster and the total allowable catch that the plan specifies, will result in the extinction of the species.

Ms Sole said on Wednesday she had, acting as a citizen wanting a sustainable environment, asked the high court in the middle of this month to order the minister to halt all commercial fishing of rock lobster or alternatively limit it to traditional subsistence fishers.

The minister failed to reply to the application by the deadline of noon on December 24.

In an affidavit, Ms Sole said : "While it is acknowledged that socioeconomic considerations are necessary, it is, in our belief, unlawful for the respondent to entirely ignore its own west coast rock lobster scientific working group recommendations designed to protect and resurrect the sustainable status of the west coast rock lobster resource."

Attempts to reach the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful. But last month Ms Joemat-Pettersson rejected a claim she has sought to interfere and influence the total allowable catch, or quota, for commercial rock lobsters in favour of one rights holder.

The accusation, by Fieke Natural Resources Advisors MD Shaheen Moolla, was that the minister had instructed her department to impose the same catch for rock lobster as last year — of about 2,354 tons.

This ignored the plan to reduce the catch by 9.6%, which would allow for replenishment of stocks, Mr Moolla said.