September has been a stormy and eventful month for the SSF in WC and NC Cape. At the beginning of the month, fishers were told that it is proposed their rock lobster allocations for 2017/2018 will be cut by 59%. This lead to protests by the fishers at the offices of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Following the protests leaders of fisher organisations met with DAFF. The organisations from the Western Cape came together and formed a Collective of Fisher Organisations, which eventually sent a letter to an arm of the United Nations, pleading the case of small-scale fishers in South Africa.

On Friday, September 29 a meeting with the DDG and senior staff of the department was held with nine representatives of members of the Collective.

The Department was represented by the DDG and three other staff members, one of whom chaired the meeting, Christian Adams from CLSA introduced the Collective and explained why we sought a meeting with the DDG and the Department.

The Collective put their demands on the table, of which the main one was that the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) be put on hold, and that the TAC should in its entirety be allocated to the Small-scale Fisheries, since commercial companies are the ones that put great pressure on the resource and putting the resource under strain through their method of fishing which are also causing great destruction to the environment.

On the issue of the Fishing Rights Allocation Process, the DDG indicated that through the FRAP, individuals and business have already been issued with rights, and that only through a court of law, can that be reversed.

“After listening to the DAFF presentation we expressed that we do not agree with the DAFF to continue this process. However it does leave us at a disjuncture of how we move forward with this process. We informed the DAFF that we will need to take this back to our constituents in order to get guidance as to how we move forward,” said Christian Adams in his report on the meeting.

“We did call for a caucus break during this discussion, during this caucus we found that the DAFF have legal obligations under the MLRA to allow those who did receive “grant of right letters” to complete the FRAP Process. Under the MLRA we are only allowed to take a process to court once to process is completed. We then resolved to take this process under review after completion and during this time we will need to compile as much as possible information to positively influence the outcomes of this review.”

Regarding FRAP, a request was made in terms of the Appeals of the near-shore fishers and where do they stand. The DDG explained that the process is now stuck at the appeals, that communities have requested assistance as many people do not understand the appeal forms, and that they will be sending people out to help people who request assistance.

The DDG also made it clear that no new entrants will be considered for the near-shore, but under the law, nothing prevents new entrants from appealing against their exclusion.

It has now been established that the Appeals Process for Commercial Near Shore Rock Lobster has been extended to November 17.

The DDG agreed to the following:

  •  For the current season, the Offshore will be issued with Permit Conditions not to fish in the Nearshore Area, proposed area of 30 Nautical Miles, which is still negotiable.  
  •   The Offshore permit conditions will be discussed within the next 14 days the Collective must appoint three delegates to represent them.
  •   Commitment to phase out the Trap System in the next two to three years, taking the phasing out of the demersal shark fishing as an example to use for the trap system.
  • That the current 20% of the TAC that was taken from the commercial sector to give to the small-scale fishing, can be increased to 50%.
  • That what is taken from the commercial sector have to be caught in the offshore, and will have to catch using the trap system. The Collective disagreed, and pointed out that an exemption can be made, as an exemption was made a few years ago, where the fish of the commercial sector was caught in the near shore by small-scale fishers using hoops. The DDG agreed to look into this, and answer is expected.
  •  That three working groups will be established through which the Collective and DAFF will engage on, namely West Coast Rock Lobster, Abalone and Small-scale fisheries. It was also mentioned that other provinces also have to be included in the work streams.

The final points discussed were on future interactions: ‘The DAFF will send a response to the collective on the memoranda and this will be send to Pedro Garcia. We also stressed that the DDG/DAFF must communicate with Pedro alone. We as the collective must then ensure that when the DAFF/DDG does contact anybody else from the collective, we must point them to Pedro as our mandated communications liaison,” concluded Adams in his report.

Subsequently, the Collective have been having meeting s and discussed the outcomes of the meeting with DAFF, and decided to raise their concerns with DAFF in a memorandum that has been delivered to the offices of the Fisheries Compliance Offices in towns and harbours all over the Western Cape.

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