The Masifundise and Coastal Links Annual General Meeting will be held in Cape Town, on May 27, is to put in place a clear programme to advance the interests of small-scale fishers for 2016 and beyond.

The AGM is preceded by a National Level Workshop that places the spotlight on a number of key issues related to the sector.

The workshop and AGM will be attended by 80 representatives, made up of Masifundise Board and staff members and fishers from four coastal provinces, including for the first time, delegates from in-land fishing communities.

The Coastal Links delegates represented some 4000 small-scale fishers across the country.

Details of the newly elected Masifundise Board members and Coastal Links national leadership as well as the resolutions that will be adopted will be sent to structures around the country, after the AGM concludes by Friday May 27.

Key issues that will come under intense scrutiny and the subject of vibrant discussions and debate will include the following;

The formulation of a new strategic plan for Masifundise and Coastal Links,

The inclusion of freshwater fishers from Van der Kloof Dam in the Northern Cape into the organisation,

The strengthening of Coastal Links through income generation, skills development and expansion of membership,

The comprehensive implementation of the small scale fisheries policy (SFFP),

The progress of court cases in Langebaan and Dwesa-Cwebe that revolve around customary rights in Marine Protected Areas and proposals to red-list West Coast Rock Lobster.

The role of Masifundise as the secretariat of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples will also came under discussion.

Another critical issue is the need to speed up a European Union funded project aimed at  securing 2000 jobs in fishing communities.

This can now get under way as it is linked to the implementation of the small scale fisheries policy.

Much foundational work has already been done.

The outgoing chairperson of the Masifundise Board, Mr MG Bongo, said that he is inspired by the progress of the organisation, but pointed out a number of “external factors” that can hamper progress.

These include a dwindling funding base for NGOs and the slow pace of delivery from government.

“Then there is the issue of the ‘big fishing companies’ who are carrying on as if we are still governed by the old regime which favoured white capital,” he said.

“We are also faced by some fisher-folk who operate outside our scope who make matters difficult at times.”

Masifundise Programme Manager, Mandla Gqamlana, said he too was concerned at the slow pace of delivery.

“Even though the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Policy was endorsed in 2012, its implementation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is extremely delayed,” he said.

“The first step in the implementation is the identification, verification and registration of fishers, since only those who are registered will be able to apply for fishing rights.”

In the meantime and while small scale fishers are left in limbo, the space potentially reserved for them keeps shrinking:

  • the mechanisms established by the Marine Living Resources Act to allocate fishing rights continue to be implemented as before (with a full Fishing Rights Allocation Process currently being carried out and rights for several species already exhausted) and;
  • the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) continues to introduce limited fishing of certain species and to increase the list of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where fishing is prohibited (with 22 additional MPAs tabled for gazetting as part of Operation Phakisa).

At the bottom of these lie the loss of political will, the lack of engagement with the DEA, and the limited capacity of the Small-Scale Fishery Directorate within DAFF (only 15 staff). It is this context that informs our programme of action for the year ahead.”

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