By Paul VecchiattoAgriculture‚ Forestry & Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and fishing industry CEOs have insisted there is no crisis in the sector despite almost no fishery protection patrols being performed over the past year‚ a disruption of the economically important fishing surveys and confusion around the issuing of fishing quotas.Joemat-Pettersson met with the heads of some of the country’s largest fishing companies on Wednesday. Among those attending the meeting were the CEOs of Viking Fishing‚ Oceana Fishing‚ Premier Fishing and the overall industry association Fish SA.This was the fist meeting of its type that Joemat-Pettersson has held with the industry since taking office in 2009.However‚ at the press briefing following the meeting‚ Joemat-Pettersson said she had been meeting with various fishing sector companies and associations and she would continue to make herself available to meet with others who were not at the meeting.Joemat-Pettersson also said: “The meeting has been a chance for industry to advise me‚ as a valued voice‚ on how we can expand opportunities for commercial and small-scale fishers.“There is a game change in the agriculture‚ forestry and fisheries sector; we value these interactions as an opportunity to receive advice from industry leaders.”She also made a commitment that the fishing patrol and research vessels that were in the SA Navy’s custody would be made operational as soon as possible.The ships were placed in the hands of the navy last year after the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries failed to finalise a controversial tender that resulted in the vessels being taken away from specialist maritime crewing company Smit Amandla Marine.The department told Parliament in February that the navy had failed to keep the ships in full seaworthy condition and urgent steps were needed to return them to full operating capacity.During the press briefing Fisheries Branch deputy director-general Greta Apelgren-Narkedien said Dutch firm Damen Shipyards had received special permission from maritime insurance underwriter Lloyds of London to allow at least two of the vessels to sail from Simon’s Town to Cape Town so that the repairs may be done.Apelgren-Narkedien also said the department was in discussions with an unnamed company to recruit crews for the ships and to provision them.She said that the first of this year’s scheduled pelagic surveys would happen in mid-May.The department had used a fishing vessel chartered from Viking Fishing to carry out the last such survey earlier this year as the research vessel Afrikaner was non-operational.Shaheen Moolla MD of Feike Natural Resource Management Advisors said the industry CEOs had no choice but to cooperate with Joemat-Pettersson as she has threatened to withdraw fishing rights.“Foodcorp had an issue in February when they had to take their case to the Western Cape High Court to obtain their rights and it was settled out of court‚” he said.Moolla said according to the department it still had to allocate 1‚000 fishing right quotas but had not yet appointed a service provider and so it was unlikely this process would be completed by year end.Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen said the need for the department to use an industry vessel to carry out the surveys proved that the private sector was equally important as the department itself.“The sin is that the survey was carried out by the private sector after it had paid levies and taxes (via the Marine Living Resources Fund) to the department for it to carry out this function‚” he said.Regular surveys of SA’s fishing resources is important for the country to prove that it has sustainable fishing stocks in order to keep export markets.