Masifundise welcomes the news that on Wednesday 4 August, Cabinet adopted the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries’ Policy.

The policy, which has been in the making since 2017, will provide an efficient regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector. It will also formalise the currently informal and unrecognised activities of small-scale fisheries.

The inland fisheries sector has, for many years, operated with no legislative framework for its governance and little recognition for the vital role inland fishers play as food producers. Due to a lack of clear, national-level policy and legislation regulating the inland fisheries sector to date, inland fishers have operated informally or used recreational fishing permits – the only permit option that currently exists for them.

“This is great news for us and the other thousands of small-scale fishers who have been fishing in rivers, dams and lakes to put food on the table for our families and communities, we have risked harassment, fines and even arrests to get to this moment,” said December Menyuka, a small-scale fisher in Jozini, KwaZulu- Natal.

“We are concerned that it still going to take a long time before the policy is implemented. In the meantime, we will still continue to be harassed by rangers and lodge owners. We are forced to fish at night, with dangerous crocodiles and hippos. Some have lost their lives in the lake and we don’t want to see that happen again, added Menyuka.

“Until now, freshwaters continued to be regulated according to pre-democracy ordinances and regulation at provincial level, resulting in the criminalisation for small-scale fishing people, whose dignity and rights have been constantly violated for decades”, said Carmen Mannarino, Programme Manager at Masifundise.

“We expect that Cabinet’s approval will be swiftly followed up with plans and resources allocation to ensure that policy implementation is carried out urgently, allowing small-scale fishers to secure their livelihoods and create opportunities for local economic development, while contributing to food security, especially at this time of unemployment and food crisis, continued Mannarino.

The COVID-19 pandemic placed additional burdens on inland fisher folk. It destabilised their income and threatened their livelihoods. The lockdown regulations and restrictions that were implemented by the South Africa government in response to the pandemic, have greatly impacted the ability of inland fishers to access their fishing grounds, and to ensure local food security. Inland fishers were, in some cases, prohibited from carrying out their fishing activities by local conservation and water management authorities as well as South African Police Service (SAPS).

The policy will provide for the setting up of developmental fisheries’ governance institutions; support growing inland fisheries value chains; management of a sustainable inland fishing and address the issues of equity and transformation of the sector. The implementation of the policy should take on a meaningful and collaborative approach that centres the needs and dignity of inland fishers as a previously marginalised group. Masifundise will continue to work with inland small-scale fishing communities to ensure that they are involved in the democratic management of freshwaters natural resources.

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