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St Helena fishing – The facts about about the investor

This is a discussion that talks about one of St Helena’s richest assets which is fishing.

PQ trading St Helena has been endorsed as the preferred investor to undergo fish processing on St Helena.

Some of the local community and local fishers are not happy with the proposal offered, they have vocally expressed their views on how the process to select an investor has been carried out and as a result the SHCFA made a decision to launched a petition to call on the Government to terminate the procurement. (The online petition can be found here)
If we rewind back to earlier this year, a press release was published to offer the opportunity for anyone to submit proposals to invest into the Islands fisheries.

After many months of monitoring the timeline of this process, it seems that this is a challenging task for both official’s, preferred investors and the commercial fishermen of St Helena.
During the time it took to try an establish a solution to find the right investor, the local fish processing factory was closed and that decision caused some disruption and created many impacts to the fishermen’s lively hood and the community of St Helena.

Although many press releases have been published by the SHCFA there has been no open media discussions with officials or PQ trading about the proposal.

Shortly after the petition was launched on Friday the 24th July, I invited PQ trading to speak with the St Helena podcast to have an open discussion around some of the topics that is causing concerns with in the St Helena community.

The invite was accepted and today’s discussion with the director of PQ trading explains and expands on many areas of fish processing in St Helena.
I believe this is the first time that any one from PQ trading has joined the conversation openly to talk about the proposal and what’s recommended and how St Helena will benefit from the investment.
Note: that I have no commercial invested interest in fishing on St Helena today nor do I have any professional skills in the industry but I believe it’s important that great communication is key to any partnering in commercial ventures. However, my only preferred result is a successful future for the industry, meeting all legal and best practises while conducting sustainable fishing and the results improves the lively hoods of my fellow saints that live on the Island.

I hope you find this conversation interesting and engaging comments are welcome.

As discussed in the podcast if anyone who is interested in reaching out to P Q trading the  Email address is here 

Island wide petition decision to sort out fishing business on St Helena

St Helena’s Commercial Fisherman’s Association (SHCFA) has decided that it is now time to launch an Island wide petition with the intention of overturning and terminating the current process involving PQ Trading (SHG’s preferred investor to process fish on St Helena) and to call for an open and transparent process that ensures the security of all local fishermen both now and into St Helena’s fishing future.

This statement was released from the Fishermen’s Association as a result of a press release from the St Helena Government stating that in no uncertain terms the much awaited yellowfin and bigeye tuna total allowable catch Limits (TAC’s) have now been set and they have been set for the preferred bidder’s proposed Co-Op.

The St Helena Fisherman’s Association is frustrated as it appears that the external investor will be handed the Island’s only fish processing factory to include a large sum of tax payer’s money (that was allocated from SHG’s consolidated fund) to refurbish the fish factory for their operations, and now they are being allocated seemingly the entire allocation of yellowfin and bigeye tuna quota.

The Association also drew attention to the fact that the catch limits table for St Helena’s fishery was presented to the Economic Development Committee (EDC) on Thursday, 09th July seeking approval.  Interestingly however, it was made very clear by the Chair of EDC  at the beginning of this meeting that the total allowable catch limits for yellowfin and bigeye tuna would not be discussed as approval for these species had been established during the Executive Council meeting two days before.   Three committee members of EDC disputed this position, as they felt they were being asked to approve the table in its entirety and therefore had difficulty accepting that species included, would not form part of their decision making process.  This discontent presented them with the opportunity to ask a number of questions of the two Government Officers presenting the documentation who were the Director for Environment Natural Resources and Planning Directorate and the  Marine Conservation Officer.   

It was thought that some of the answers given were unsatisfactory and not well-founded, giving way for additional questions to be asked, which resulted  in EDC not being confident that the catch limits being presented was adequate or feasible.

The Association was appalled by the lack of proficiency shown and evidence presented at a time when decisions were being sought, which they believed to be totally unacceptable, especially when during the final stages of the meeting it was announced by the Chair of the Economic Development Committee that works towards finalising the Co-Op was in an “advance stage”. 

Tuna St Helena

As a result, following this meeting the SHCFA committee held a meeting with their members to provide them with an update on events unfolding, decisions that have recently been taken and an overview of the EDC meeting.  From this feedback it was unanimously decided that an island wide petition should be launched to call for the termination of the current process to take place which ensures that the security of every local fisherman both now and into the future.  The Association will also be asking that scientific advice designed to help achieve sustainability will actually be followed to ensure that the development of a ‘Brand St Helena’ is done so with integrity.   

Who is PQ Trading ?

 PQ Trading (STH) is now a St Helenian registered business. The directors are Johan-Marais Bezuidenhout and his father Johann Bezuidenhout. Johan-Marais Bezuidenhout started working in the fisheries in 1999, first in Plettenburg Bay for a Spanish Fish Exporter, followed by a position in South Africa’s biggest fish producing company, thereafter owning and operating a fish exporting company.

Is PQ Trading a long term investor?

PQ trading is a long term investor and is planning to build a profitable and sustainable fishing industry for St Helena.

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More information here on the preferred investor to undertake fish processing

Voyage to investigate illegal fishing off Ascension: reporting ban on St Helena media is lifted

extractor 640

A criminal investigation has been carried out into illegal fishing around Ascension Island.

But the media on St Helena were banned from reporting on an investigatory expedition aboard the MFV Extractor until it was over (archive picture by Bruce Salt).

No details of the operation have emerged from official sources at the time of writing.

An injunction was served on Mike Olsson, editor of the St Helena Independent, and Saint FM Community Radio, to prevent them reporting on the voyage for fear of alerting the operators of illegal fishing vessels.

Other media on the island were also bound by the injunction.

Chief magistrate John MacRitchie said in his court judgement that the media would be “unlikely to potentially interfere with the course of justice, if the situation is explained to them”.

He said acting attorney general Angelo Berbotto had failed to explain why the media should avoid reporting the voyage of the MFV Extractor.

He also rebuked Mike Olsson for giving a forthright response to a threatening email from Mr Berbotto. This was blamed for a breakdown in communications that prompted Mr Berbotto to take the extraordinary and draconian step of seeking an injunction at the 11th hour, disrupting publication of the 5 February 2016 edition of the St Helena Independent.

In his judgement in the case, Mr MacRitchie said the injunction would mean inhibiting the freedom of the press – “an extremely important right”.

But he said this was outweighed by the need to prevent “interference with the detection of serious crimes, which are specifically said to be taking place around Ascension  island.”

The affair has raised a number of human rights issues that are expected to be examined in the coming days.

There is also likely to be scrutiny of the actions of Mr Berbotto and the legal service on St Helena.

  • COMMENT: Responsible efforts by St Helena Online to find out the scope of reporting restrictions were unsuccessful. This resulted in the site being unable to report on matters of clear public interest that could, in fact, have been made public, without risk of perverting the course of justice. This became clear when a copy of the court judgement was received on Friday, 4 March 2016, only a day before the injunction would expire. I regard this obstruction as an unwarranted restraint on my human right to freedom of expression and will be considering my response. Simon Pipe, owner, St Helena Online

 

Fishing directors ‘declined council talks’ as vessel lay idle

MFV Extractor, by Bruce Salt. Click to see full gallery
MFV Extractor, by Bruce Salt. Click to see full gallery

A lack of public information about the future of St Helena’s first offshore fishing vessel has been called “extremely disturbing” by a councillor – after months without a single fish being caught.

Public funds helped to pay for the MFV Extractor, which began landing large catches from the sea mounts around the island soon after arriving in James Bay in April 2014. But fishing  ceased in late 2014, with no formal explanation.

The Hon Corinda Essex raised a question about the future use of the Extractor at the March 2015 meeting of Legislative Council. But she was told it was a matter for the private company set up to run it.

Extractor's crew got a hero's welcome. Picture: Bruce Salt
Extractor’s crew got a hero’s welcome (Bruce Salt)

She said the directors at Saint Marine Resources Limited (SMRL) had declined to meet councillors to say what was happening.

The company issued a statement in February 2015 saying they hoped to use the vessel for maritime training and off-shore fishing within three months, eventually building up crews who could operate the vessel in rotation.

It said: “It was hoped that the MFV Extractor would return to operation in January 2015.

“Sadly, following the tragic death of skipper Trevor Thomas and subsequent notification from other crew members that they no longer wish to continue their involvement in this venture, the company is now in the process of exploring alternative options.

“The Directors of SMRL recognise the significant contributions to the fishing industry in general made by skipper Trevor Thomas along with other crew members.”

Early catches were healthy. Picture by Bruce Salt
Early catches were healthy. Picture by Bruce Salt

Trevor’s daughter, Tammy Williams, has written a letter to island newspapers after Dr Niall O’Keefe, head of Enterprise St Helena, made no mention of their achievements in a speech on island successes.

“I suppose the Extractor saga does leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth,” she says. “I thought at the very least the fish landed by the Extractor, amounting to some 60-plus tonnes of prime tuna exported last year, was worth mentioning.”

SMRL director Rob Midwinter said he was unable to comment on concerns raised at LegCo because he had been travelling back to the island on the RMS St Helena at the time.

Dr Essex had asked the chairman of the economic development committee, the Hon Lawson Henry, when the vessel would be operational again.

He explained it was a matter for the private company, but she said that “elected members requested the board of SMRL to meet with them but the invitation was declined.”

Attorney general Nicola Moore said: “Regrettably, it’s a matter for private company law. There is no requirement to provide information to members of the public.”

Dr Essex returned to the issue of government funding for the vessel in her adjournment debate speech.

“It is extremely disturbing that we as elected members are unable to obtain basic information regarding progress relating to that investment,” she said.

“Members who sit on Enterprise St Helena and Fisheries Corporation boards have been provided with some confidential information but this is not accessible to all members.

“We all have a responsibility to monitor the outcomes of public expenditure.”

She suggested there might be “a need to strengthen the company’s public accountability… perhaps there should be a change in the structure of SMRL’s board.”

Tammy Williams’s letter notes that the crew of the Extractor were presented with a St Helenian flag when the vessel arrived in James Bay on 19 April 2014, after overseeing the refit in South Africa.

“After some considerable time and sacrifice away from home and family for three months, the Extractor crew sailed into James Bay with all the hopes and dreams of building a fishing industry.

“The crew of the Extractor were a perfect example of local people making it work and helping to turn the island into a viable and prosperous place to live.”

She notes that Extractor left her moorings “after six months of lying idle” on Friday 27 March – the day Dr Essex was pressing for information in the council chamber.

Terry Richards, director of SMRL, has subsequently given this statement: “The company is currently pursuing a publically advertised commercial exercise, and is unable to comment further at this time, however the company has maintained that it will endeavour to keep the public informed via press releases as and when it is in a position to do so.”

SEE ALSO:
Trevor O Thomas: a tribute from a friend
Island crews hailed for ten-hour rescue operation
St Helena’s very own offshore fishing vessel – in pictures

Net saving? Ascension no-fishing zone could cost £3m – or not

Creating one of the world’s biggest marine protection zones around Ascension Island could cost the UK about £3 million a year – at a Conservative estimate.

The conservationist estimate, on the other hand, is only £400,000 a year.

12 The Great WetropolisClick the pic to see a gallery of Ascension marine life

Celebrities and academics have joined with conservation groups in calling on the British government to create three massive maritime “parks” in the Atlantic and South Pacific, with a complete ban on commercial fishing.

The Tory Foreign Minister Hugo Swire has said the likely cost of full enforcement could be judged from the £2.75m spent each year patrolling a reserve in the Indian Ocean.

Policing the seas was even more expensive around South Georgia, “where a patrol vessel alone costs approximately £3.2m per year,” he said in a Commons Written Answer on 9 February 2015.

But the environment writer Charles Clover has put the cost at a mere £400,000 a year, according to The Guardian website.

Thanks to satellite technology, it would not be necessary to have a patrol boat out searching vast areas of ocean for pirate fishing vessels, he told the site.

The Guardian also reported that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had begun discussions with people on Ascension about creating a reserve.

It understood that “indigenous” fishing would be allowed up to 18 miles offshore. That may not reassure keen sport fishermen on Ascension, which officially has no permanent or “indigenous” population.

The Blue Marine Foundation has spear-headed a campaign to have three marine reserves created around Ascension, the Southern Atlantic territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific.

It says they would protect 1.75 million square kilometres of ocean – expanding the total area of ocean reserves by 50 per cent.

The foundation describes Ascension’s warm waters as “a green turtle Mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark.”

A campaign letter has been signed by 42 conservation bodies, including Birdlife International, the RSPB, Greenpeace UK, the Zoological Society of London, and the less-well-known Fin Fighters UK and Fish Fight.

The actresses Greta Scacchi, Dame Helena Bonham Cater, Julie Christie and Zoe Wanamaker have added their names to those of leading scientists and environmental figures in the letter to the UK government.

The foundation said in a statement: “More than 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its overseas territories.

“Rare whales, turtles, fish, penguins, corals and albatrosses are among the wildlife that would benefit if the reserves were to be set up.”

SEE ALSO:
Ascension’s underwater wonders revealed
UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about eco threats, say MPs
St Helena tops the league table for unique species
Blue Marine Foundation – press release
Conservationists call for UK to create world’s largest marine reserve – The Guardian
Cost of patrolling Ascension reserve – Commons Written Answer

Trevor O Thomas: a tribute from a friend

Trevor O Thomas aboard MFV Extractor. Picture by Bruce Salt
Trevor O Thomas aboard MFV Extractor. Picture by Bruce Salt

Trevor Otto Thomas did not hesitate when the call came to go to the aid of a yacht crew, drifting rudderless in heavy seas, far out into the ocean. He helped save their lives. Three months later, no one was able to save Trevor’s life. He was found dead a few hours after being reported missing on Monday, 15 December 2014. BRUCE SALT has paid a personal tribute in a message to friends, kindly shared here – with some of Bruce’s pictures. 

It’s amazing to see the amount of emails I’ve received from folk around the world who had either come into contact with Trevor, or had heard of him.

I had the pleasure of knowing him on a personal level for the past 27 years.

trevor o thomas 350Many have inquired as to the cause of death, as they remembered him as being a well manicured, fit, agile and intelligent gentleman who backed down from no man, and as a commercial fisherman has weathered many a storm both coastal and deep sea.

Not only was he a very successful commercial fisherman but a fine navigator and skipper of the MFV Westerdam (a Purse Seine trawler) and in between time his own inshore boat the Catfish.

In 2013/2014 he played a frontline role in the acquisition of the Australian-built 22m Westcoaster Longline Tuna fishing vessel the Extractor from Hout Bay, and sailed her to her new owners on St Helena Island, where he resided with his wife.

Apart from his passion for boats, he also loved stripping and rebuilding engines, especially diesels, with clinical cleanliness and precision. He also drew enormous pleasure from making equipment work again after it had been pronounced dead by its owners.

Ninety five percent of his projects were churned out from the porch of his flat in Jamestown, an area of miniscule proportions (perhaps eight feet long by five feet wide).

Rest in Peace Trevor
9 July 1953 – 14 December 2014

Regards
Bruce

SEE ALSO: Sailing for St Helena with a floorboard for a rudder

Trevor Thomas and Charmaine Salt, pictured by Bruce Salt after he helped bring St Helena's new offshore fishing vessel to the island from South Africa in April 2014
Trevor Thomas and Charmaine Salt, pictured by Bruce Salt after he helped bring St Helena’s new offshore fishing vessel to the island from South Africa in April 2014

Fishing vessel MV Extractor

St Helena’s first island-owned offshore fishing vessel arrived on the island on 19 April 2014, with friends and family of her crew waiting to welcome them ashore. Bruce Salt photographed the vessel’s arrival, a round-the-island trip, and the return from the first fishing expedition. Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slideshow of Bruce’s images.

Expert quit island three days after drink-drive ban

Fisheries adviser Mark Brumbill was convicted of drink-driving only three days before leaving St Helena without serving out his contract, it has been confirmed.

St Helena Government reported that “serious threats” had been made against his family when it announced his departure – but made no mention of the court case.

There has since been some anger among island fishermen about the manner of the announcement, which was issued a day after the family sailed for Cape Town on Sunday, 7 July 2013.

No indication has been given of the nature of the alleged threats, or whether they related to current disagreements over fishing, the drinking case, or some other matter.

Trevor Thomas, of the St Helena Fishermen’s Association, expressed his shock at the unexpected departure.

He said: “I personally am very sorry to see Mark’s appointment end in the manner it did.

“I know that he was not ill treated by the fishermen, so where does the allegation of threats emerge from?

“I am intending to write a strong letter to the Governor, and there will be further press statements once I confirm a number of other facts.”

An email from another fisherman said the handling of the announcement could damage St Helena’s reputation.

The following notice has been issued to island media:

St Helena Magistrates’ Court
4 July 2013

MARK BRUMBILL (43) of the Briars, pleaded guilty to driving whilst 50% over the prescribed alcohol limit. Mr Brumbill was fined £470.00 with £15.00 costs and disqualified from driving for the period of 12 months.

SEE ALSO: ‘Threats’ blamed as family quits island (amended text)

‘Threats’ blamed as family quits island (amended text)

(This story has been amended in the light of emerging information that suggests that the unspecified threats against Mark Brumbill may well not relate to his work with the fishing industry)

The expert brought in to build up St Helena’s fishery has left the island abruptly after allegedly receiving “serious personal threats”, including to his family.

Mark Brumbill’s departure was made public the day after he and his family sailed on the RMS St Helena on Sunday 7 July, bound for Cape Town.

St Helena Online is awaiting confirmation of another matter that is thought to put a different complexion on the issue.

The threats were referred to in a brief statement from the island’s head of economic development, Julian Morris.

He made no direct reference to recent anger over a South African company, Global Fish, being given a temporary licence to fish St Helena waters.

Nor has there been any suggestion that the alleged threats even relate to Mr Brumbill’s work on behalf of the fishing industry.

The Enterprise St Helena chief said: “Mark had completed his initial appraisal and report on the St Helena Fishery, which sets out the many opportunities available to the island.

“I regret Mark’s departure, which is a loss to the island, although I fully understand his decision to leave.

“After considering a number of factors, including unfair and unwarranted comments from a few individuals, including some very serious personal threats to him and his family, Mark concluded that it would be extremely difficult for him to remain here to help Saints develop a prosperous and sustainable fishing industry.

“I am grateful to Mark and his family, who made a significant commitment by leaving their home in Brazil to come here and share Mark’s skills and experience with those who want to see growth in St Helena’s fishing sector.

“Mark identified great potential for St Helena’s fishery, provided that it can adapt to change, involving various fishing techniques and different approaches to business organisation – all matters on which he was well qualified to advise.

“Looking ahead, we will build on his work by supporting a number of local fishing initiatives.”

Julian Morris’s comments are understood to have caused anger in some circles, with conflicting accounts of events circulating on the island.

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