The Interim relief (IR) Package for small-scale fishers that was meant to be a temporary solution for two years is now in its tenth year.

When Masifundise and Coastal links South Africa won the equality court case in 2005 that would set a path for the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries to develop a policy for small-scale fishers, the two organisations never envisaged that “INTERIM” packages would drag out for so long.

Now 10 years down the line, small-scale fishers in the Western and Northern Cape will receive rights under the IR 10 and fishers in the KwazuluNatal (KZN) and Eastern Cape (EC) region will still suffer under the subsistence permit.

The IR quotas were introduced as a stop-gap measure to accommodate a greater number of small-scale fishers who were left out of the 2005 long term fishing policies/allocations with the aim that there would be a formulation, adoption and implementation of a Small-Scale Fisheries Policy within two years.

Sadly the adoption of South Africa’s Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Policy took seven years and was only adopted by National Cabinet in June 2012.

To add to the injury, the implementation of many aspects of the policy, including central issues such as the allocation of quotas to small-scale fishers, could not proceed without the passing of the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill (MLRA) (Bankestein, 2013). The MLRA was finally passed and small-scale fishers legally recognised in May 2014.

Yet, the implementation of the policy is moving slowly and IR10 is set to take place for the upcoming season.

The Scourge that is to continue

Masifundise and Coastal Links have regularly pointed to the shortcomings of the system. It entrenches the individual quota system, which is destructive. Also, it has been marked by irregularities and in some instances, corruption.

“We have persistently brought areas of corruption and mismanagement in the allocation process to the attention of DAFF officials but nothing gets done about this,” Masifundise was quoted in one Article published by the Daily Maverick.

At a march that took place in Cape Town DAFF’s offices last year November, fishers were fed up by the deep and enduring problems with the Interim Relief system which was (and still is) playing havoc with the lives of thousands of people in Small-scale fishing communities across the Western and Northern Cape.

The fishers led by CLSA and MDT called for an immediate end to the IR system and the rapid implementation of the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy. A memorandum with a list of grievances was handed to the department’ officials, the list of grievances included:

  • The late issuing of permits,
  • the inclusion of non-fishers in beneficiary lists and
  • general mismanagement by DAFF that deprives fishers of sustainable livelihoods and is causing conflict in communities. There are persistent allegations of corruption in the allocation processes.

The issues raised have not been solved and currently we sit with fishers in a number of communities who did not receive their permits or fishers who were removed from the list.

For example, bona fide fishers in the fishing community of Arniston in the Western Cape sit without food on the table because they were suddenly removed from the original list of 2007.

The fishers in the Northern Cape received their permits late and this resulted in them starting to catch when the season was about to close.

Moreover, due to the lack of the implementation of the policy and the continuation of the IR- fishers in the KZN and EC regions are discriminated due the type of permit they hold, which does not allow them to sell their catches.

Meanwhile, the Department is gearing up to allocate rights and IR10 is on the table. The many problems of the previous IR allocation have been escalating without a tangible solution to the problem.

We ask: How will the department manage this process? Are small-scale fishers going to be swallowed by another plague which threatens to destroy friendships, communities and promises to further sink those who depend on the sea into poverty?

What will be different with this IR 10?

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