Fisher Human Rights Hearings, 2003
When Masifundise began working in the coastal towns and villages of the Western Cape in 1999, artisanal and subsistence fishers (small-scale) appeared to be experiencing increasing difficulties in accessing the sea despite the introduction at that time of new legislation to promote transformation in the fishing industry.
In the subsequent four years Masifundise received numerous reports of fisher’s being excluded from the new rights regime, in some cases they were denied access to the historical rights that they had previously enjoyed and they also reported a lack of access to information and justice and inability to capture the attention of the government department’s responsible for these issues. This information together with presentations made by many fisher people at the Fisher Forum at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, it appeared that the new fishing rights allocation policy, whilst undoubtedly bringing about a degree of transformation in certain aspects of the industry, was continuing to prioritise the rights of medium and large scale commercial interests at the expense of traditional small-scale fishers.
In 2003, in order to document the negative impact of fishing policy on traditional small-scale fishers and provide an opportunity for traditional fishing communities to voice their concerns, Masifundise, together with the South African Artisanal Fisher Association decided to host Fisher People’s Human Rights Hearings in the Western Cape.
The hearings thus aimed to gather and document information about the situation facing traditional small-scale fishers and to use this information as an opportunity to lobby for their rights and the introduction of a just and appropriate policy.