AIS stands for Alien and Invasive Species. This is a permit that is governed by the issue of the NEMBA Act of 2014. Basically prior to 2014 keeping niloticus as a species was illegal in South Africa, but now you can apply for a permit that gives you permission to keep the fish.
Don’t be too quick to celebrate however. The aquaculture industry can engage as many as 22 government departments in order to be fully compliant – the exact number is mostly unknown by all but the most expensive consultants who will spend your money happily on their time to advise you of the things you need to do.
The hardest of all, and the most important permit you will need is the AIS permit. This is issued by DEA, the Department of Environmental Affairs. This process requires that you submit a Risk Assessment (RA) report that relates to how you want to keep the fish, what you intend doing with them and so forth. It may require an EIA (environmental impact assessment) or an EIR (envionmental impact report – same as an EIA but in much more detail and ten times the cost) but this will depend on what scale you want to operate at. Typically at less than 20 tons per year an EIA is not needed and and EIR will only kick in at over 200 tons per year (but check in first to be 100% sure).
The Risk Assessment MUST be conducted by a third party independent SACNASP registered authority. A basic RA will set you back between R5k and R15k.
And then the fun starts. The AIS is assessed at national level but in consensus with the provincial authorities. In other words DEA will consult with their provincial level equivalents and together they will come up with a consensus position on your application. Currently niloticus is considered sufficiently invasive enough for Limpopo, KZN and Mpumalanga refusing permits to any applicants. So if you intend farming in these provinces your ambitions with the species are over before they begin (curiously niloticus has been in the Limpopo river system for the last 17 years that we know about and DEA don’t seem to have done anything about it).
What we can tell you is that even if you are in these provinces you should apply anyway.It shows interest in the industry and in the current jobs climate, responsible aquaculture ought to be encouraged. And yet DEA have done demonstrably nothing since 2014 to address the issue – what it boils down to is that they have ignored the industry and acted in bad faith as the trout industry is currently discovering. Even more perversely they are at odds with their own colleagues in government (DAFF). Yes, correctly they have environmental concerns about the species, but equally they have had at least three years to come up with something a little more concrete than “we’re looking at it” and certainly their past track record in respect of the species invading Limpopo demonstrates that their priorities do not in fact line up with their stated concerns.
The pressure is mounting all the time and you are free to contact the man in charge GPreston@environment.gov.za and enquire as to what the status of the species is. We’d recommend asking him once a week or so. Let him know that now is a good time to start catching up on the work that should have been done already.
Once your application is in, by law they have to answer you within 90 working days. It’s part of the legislation. You will then receive a polite letter of rejection which you will need to keep. Once you have your file, once niloticus does become permissible to farm (and it will) you’ll be right in front of the pack to get your permit issued. In the meantime, you can farm quite happily if not profitably with mossambicus, for which you do not need an AIS permit. You will need other permits however, and the docs below will give you a head start.
Guide to Authorisation Requirements Aquaculture SA 2015 The User Friendly Legal Guideline for the Aquaculture Sector in South Africa National Environmental Management Act 107-1998 – Environmental Impact Assessment (20130211-GGN-36145-00101)