The deadline for the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy has been postponed from March 2016 to June/July 2016, causing much concern among fisher folk.

Norton Dowries, chairperson of Coastal Links SA, Western Cape, said the wheels were turning very slowly. “When interim relief was introduced, it was meant to last two years, but ten years later we still have interim relief,” he said.

Bethuel Sithole, deputy chairperson of Coastal Links SA (KZN), that a further delay in implementation will extend the hardship of KZN fishers.

“We currently live under the subsistence fishing permit, which is a disaster for our communities,” said Sithole.

At the moment in KZN, they are waiting for the processes to identify the fishers, and to register their communities of interest, and for the department to kick-start the programme to launch co-operatives in the province.

“At the moment we are not allowed to register our own co-operatives, the department said that they have their own type of co-operatives they want to be registered,” he said.

Sithembiso Gwaza, Masifundise Fieldworker, believes that communities will revolt if the SSF policy is not implemented next year.

“The people are already not happy that the department is postponing the implementation from March to June/July next year,” said Gwaza.

People in KZN and the Eastern Cape are still on subsistence permits and so a postponement will not be acceptable.

At the moment, what people catch, they must eat it up, they have no means to sustain themselves and create sustainable livelihoods for themselves.

“Everybody works in order to have food, clothing, pay for a roof over their heads, pay for their children’s schooling, but, the fishers are expected to work only for the food in their stomachs,” said Gwaza.

And, should the SSF policy be postponed beyond June/July 2016, it will perpetuate the people’s suffering, unless Interim Relief, with improvements from the lessons learnt through its implementation could be brought to KZN and the Eastern Cape.

Nico Waldeck, Masifundise fieldworker, believes that it seems like the SSF policy will be implemented on the back of the commercial allocations that have been made within the TAC.

What will be left of the TAC, will then be awarded to the small-scale fisheries sector, that’s why he believe the policy implementation keeps on being postponed.

“In the end, there will be so little left for the small-scale fishing sector, that little impact on poverty alleviation will be made, and no meaningful economic transformation will come about,” says Waldeck.

Waldeck also believes that the department is not serious about bringing about economic transformation and alleviating poverty.

“For if they were, they would not have employed such a small complement of staff to address such a huge issue.”

He says that in the end, the few people working on small-scale fishing in the department, have to work extra hard to deliver to the small-scale fishing community, and he hopes that they would not be blamed if things go wrong.

Waldeck would not want to see the prolonging of the IR system, as he says, it only fragments the fishing communities, and put one fisher in competition with the other to get onto the IR list.

Norton Dowries says that he is sick and tired of IR, and that should the implementation of the SSF policy not be implemented by June/July 2016, small scale fishers would take to the streets.

“I am sick and tired of IR, it takes the food off the table of the fishers, it is by time that the fishers get the rights that belongs to them,” said Dowries.

“IR is one of the biggest flops, it was only meant as an interim measure, but the way that I see it, it seems like we might end up one day with IR20.”

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