Fishing communities should make submissions
Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa on February 3 published draft notices and regulations in the Government Gazette to declare a network of 22 new proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as part of the Operation Phakisa Initiative.
“The declaration of these new MPAs aims to create approximately 70‚000km2 of marine protected areas‚ bringing our ocean protection within the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to more than 5%‚” Molewa said.
“Many of these new MPAs aim to protect offshore ecosystems and species‚ ranging from deep areas along the Namibian border to a more than tenfold expansion of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in the KwaZulu-Natal Province,” the department declares on its website.
“They include charismatic features‚ such as‚ fossilised yellow wood forest at a depth of 120m off Port Nolloth‚ a deep cold-water coral reef standing 30m high off the seabed near Port Elizabeth and a world famous diving destination where seven shark species aggregate‚ at Protea Banks in KwaZuluNatal. These MPAs also include undersea mountains‚ canyons‚ sandy plains‚ deep and shallow muds and diverse gravel habitats with unique fauna.”
“The new MPAs will secure protection of marine habitats like reefs‚ mangroves and coastal wetlands which are required to help protect coastal communities from the results of storm surges‚ rising sea-levels and extreme weather. Offshore‚ these MPAs will protect vulnerable habitats and secure spawning grounds for various marine species‚ therefore helping to sustain fisheries and ensure long-term benefits important to food and job security.”
Small scale fishers know the importance of protecting the environment, the oceans and all marine resources, but then it should not be at the expense of the livelihoods of small scale fishing communities that have been living for generations and centuries off the marine resources.
Christian Adams, chairperson of Coastal Links SA (CLSA), said that the biggest problem he has with the declaration of the MPAs is that small scale fishing communities have not been consulted in the process, and that it would be one of the main issues he would be raising in his presentation to the department.
In this country, we have a history of dispossessing local communities of their livelihoods and forcibly removing them from land their ancestors have occupied for centuries.
Even in the democratic dispensation, small scale fishing communities are still being denied the right to practise sustainable livelihoods, and in many cases, under the smokescreen of environmental protection.
“As far as I can see, the new MPAs have a potential to lead to further exclusion of the small scale fishing communities,” said Adams.
Small scale fishers in Dwesa Cwebe in the Eastern Cape and Langebaan in the Western Cape bear testimony to how badly fishers are treated by environmental agencies and how fishers are continuously harassed.
“Through the MPA’s, government in many instances infringe on the human rights of small scale fishers.”
“The court case of the Dwesa Cwebe community is a case in point, where the court has found that the regulations imposed on the fishers by the MPA, infringe on the human rights and the community’s right to exercise their traditions.”
Adams said that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) issue them with the permits to fish, but, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) control the access to the fishing resources.
“It is therefore important for DAFF to also make an input into this process and also put forward the case of the small scale fishers and make sure that it does not negatively impact on small-scale fishing.”
In the new regulations it seems that fishers who break any of the new regulations governing restricted areas, and the regulations governing controlled MPAs, face fines of up to R5-million or five years imprisonment, and a further R10-million or 10 years in jail for a second conviction. Permits will also be suspended, cancelled or amended if the regulations are breached.
The Department published a list of dates for public participation workshops where the 22 MPAs will be discussed.
Some already happened since March 8, and will continue until April 6, should you like to be part of the workshops to still take place, visit the department’s website to check out the dates for the workshops (https://www.environment.gov.za/news/publicconsultation_draftnotices).
Adams said that it is also important to make submissions to the department and make it clear to them what small scale fishers feel are the important issues to look at when declaring MPAs.
Small scale fishers all everywhere should therefore carefully look at how the new MPA’s will affect them, in the local communities in which they live, and make submissions.
Comments and inputs should be submitted by no later than 16H00 on May 3, 2016, by mail, email, or by hand.
Department of Environmental Affairs (www.environment.gov.za)