2014: a memorable year for small-scale fishers

Like most years, 2014 had its challenges and opportunities, ebbs and flows, hardships and victories. For Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa, the year will be remembered as a significant one in our ongoing struggle for fishers’ rights.

The amended Marine Living Resources Act was finally adopted by the National Council of provinces and signed off by the President in the first half of 2014. This opened the way for the implementation of the Small-scale Fisheries (SSF) policy. The SSF policy is a product of years of struggle by MDT, CLSA and many of our partners. In May we launched the SSF policy Handbook in Ocean View. It was the result of a partnership between ourselves, the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) and the NGO Too Big To Ignore. Produced in English, Afrikaans Zulu and isiXhosa, the Handbook outlined details of the SSF policy and guidelines for its implementation. 10 000 Handbooks were distributed countrywide.

Two key battles over Marine Protected Areas are being taken up by communities and one of our partners, the Legal Resources Centre. In Langebaan and Dwesa-Cwebe, traditional fishers demand partial access to certain zones in their MPAs in order that they may be able to put food on the table. These struggles have been ongoing during 2014 and will continue in 2015.

The death of veteran activist Thomas Kocherry of India was mourned the world over. Another lifelong activist Chandrika Sharma was on the Malaysian airlines flight that disappeared in March this year. Both were hard knocks for MDT and CLSA, who had developed strong working relationships with both activists over many years.

A huge development for the sector was the hosting of the General Assembly of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples in Cape Town in September this year. More than 120 delegates from 30 countries gathered to build strategies that stop Ocean Grabbing and press for the implementation of the International Guidelines of small-scale fisheries.

CLSA and MDT representatives participated in various international gatherings including the Slow Fish conference in Turin and a small-scale fisheries conference in Mexico.

CLSA and MDT took its communication efforts to new levels in 2014 with expanded footprints on social media and through printed and electronic publications.

Despite resource limits, interaction between field workers and CLSA members in coastal towns continued. In November more than 30 women gathered in Paternoster for a gender workshop.

The year ended on an energetic note, with more than 100 fisher representatives heading to DAFF last week to hand over a memorandum. This is a sign that the four thousand fishers organised under the banner of CLSA are determined that fishing rights will be managed in a fair and just manner and that the SSF policy must be implemented.

As the year draws to an end, we remain steadfast in the fight for justice and fishing communities to get and retain their human rights. We will continue to advocate and lobby for redress and equality in the fishing industry.

As we head into 2015, the focus of our energies will be on the termination of the Interim Relief system and the implementation of the SSF policy, a long cherished ideal of fishing communities.

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