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The businessman at the centre of a controversial R100-million state fishing “experiment” – scrapped by a court last month – has been awarded another lucrative deal.

James Booi, who will be allowed to catch 1000t a year under a 15-year horse mackerel right, is one of several influential individuals on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ new list of provisional rights holders.

Another is Faizel Moosa, the deputy chairman of the ANC fishing desk, whose share of the annual hake resource amounts to 271t.

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Moosa backed Booi’s experiment, which was criticised as an attempt to enrich a well-connected individual. Booi’s previous contract to catch fish to feed rural communities was cancelled following accusations of irregularities.

james booiNow new long-term provisional allocations are under fire for similar reasons, with scoring heavily favouring new entrants. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has vowed to transform what he calls the “lily-white” fishing industry. The department said new rights holders were chosen using a fair and transparent scoring method.

“Any allegation that allocations have been made on any basis other than in terms of the policy and criteria set for the fisheries are again devoid of merit or substance,” said department spokesman Bomikazi Molapo.

But Jeremy Marillier, executive director of umbrella body FishSA, slammed the “drastic reductions” in commercial rights of large companies as “legally questionable” and disregarded scientific advice.

The department said scientific advice was only one tool to inform decisions, “The setting of total allowable catches must . have regard to social, economic and other management considerations.”

Moosa’s Comrades Unite Performance and Outsourcing Services received 3% of the hake in-shore catch. He said they needed more support from government.

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