Out of 407 people who applied to be recognised as fishers under the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) in the Northern Cape, only 102 made it onto the final list that was published by DAFF, after almost two years when the registration first started in early 2016.

This translates to roughly about 25% of the people who applied, who finally made it onto the list in the two coastal towns of Port Nolloth and Hondeklipbaai in the province.

According to Morgan Johnson, Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) organiser for the Northern Cape, many of the people who applied and whose names did not appear on the provisional list of small-scale fishers that was published in October 2016, did not appeal the decision to exclude them.

“In Port Nolloth, 224 people applied for small-scale fishers’ recognition, and only 47 were put on the provisional list, which excluded 177 people, and out of this 177 people only 36 people appealed against their exclusions,” said Johnson.

John Cloete, an executive committee member of CLSA Branch in Hondeklipbaai, the same situation played itself out, out of the 183 people who applied, only 20 people were placed on the provisional list, and out of the 163 who were unsuccessful, only twelve people appealed against their exclusion.

“The reason why many people did not appeal is because of the attitude of the DAFF (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries) officials, when they made it clear that people will not qualify, especially women and youth,” said Cloete.

Cloete further said that because there were only two women on the provisional list, women further felt that they would not be recognised by DAFF, and that they would be wasting their time in appealing.

In Port Nolloth the same reasons are given for why people did not appeal against their exclusion, as they felt that DAFF is not going to take them serious, especially if they are women and youth.

In both communities, women who used to work in the fish factories that were closed, and contributed over the years to the growth of the fishing industry, were excluded.

Johnson said that many of these women knew nothing else but working with fish, men also worked in the fish factories, and when the factories closed, they got onto boats and went fishing, and the women played auxiliary roles like selling their husbands’ catches, cleaning and processing the fish, but Johnson believes that DAFF does not seem to recognise the women as fishers.

Johnson also believes that there seems to be a disjuncture between what DAFF is doing in the registration process and what the policy says.

“In the registration process DAFF seemed to have taken the narrow view that only people who physically go out to sea and catch fish are regarded as fishers, but the policy have a broader definition of a fisher, which includes people who sell, clean and process fish and people who also are involved in other activities related to fishing.”

Christiaan Mackenzie, the chairperson of CLSA in Port Nolloth said that it is tragic that real fishermen are being excluded from the policy and being told by DAFF that they are not fishermen.

“I feel unhappy that many people did not get into the policy, many who meets the criteria, and to think that only six out of the 75 people from Port Nolloth are women,” said Mackenzie.

Renthia van Wyk, an executive committee member of the CLSA Branch in Port Nolloth, said that she is not happy that DAFF now wants push the responsibility of providing for the people who did not make it onto the list.

“Craig Smith, the director for small-scale fishing at DAFF, explained to us that after three years people can apply again for fishing rights under the policy, and in the meantime, fishers can be provided work through the co-operative that will be set up under the policy,” said Van Wyk.

Van Wyk believes that this is unfair, and that people applied for rights under the policy and not to be provided with job opportunities by co-operatives that do not exist yet, and that the government should not throw its responsibilities onto the co-operative.

“I find this very unfair, people have waited for many years for the policy, and now to be told that they cannot be part of it is heart-breaking to many.”

Cloete, originally from Port Nolloth, but now living in Hondeklipbaai for 33 years, said that he is sad that he was not successful with his appeal, and does not understand why he has been rejected, since he has been a fisherman all the years that he has been living in Hondeklipbaai, and before that in Port Nolloth.

“I was told that I am too old, at 69, but there is one person on the list who are 80 years old and another who is in his 70’s, I do not understand this.”

“They also said that people had to be fishing for ten years or more in order to be recognised, but one young man who only started fishing in 2015 made it onto the list.”

Out of the 12 people in Hondeklipbaai who appealed, only seven were successful, and 28 people out of the 36 appellants were successful in Port Nolloth.

At a glance it would seem that the appeals process were favourable towards the fishing communities, but scrutinised more closely, we can but only come to the conclusion that DAFF has chosen to exclude many fishers from attaining fishing rights.

Generally, fishers do not have a problem with the names of the people who are on the lists, the problem is more in the exclusion of the many, and especially youth and women.

CLSA in Hondeklipbaai and Port Nolloth said that they will be looking at the outcomes of the appeals, discuss it and decide on a way forward.

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