In August 2023, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s (DFFE) National Inland Fisheries team held a roundtable meeting with the Jozini community. Later in September, they conducted another roundtable discussion with the Gariep and Vanderkloof inland communities.
The roundtables, organised by Masifundise, provided the DFFE inland team with a space to give an update on National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy implementation plan. It also gave a platform for inland small-scale fisher representatives from the respective communities to share the key challenges they face in conducting fishing activities at the dams.
In both roundtables, the DFFE inland team shared that the policy implementation plan started on 1 April this year. The department conducted interviews to gather information on the resource, identified who are the inland fishers and the specific challenges they encounter.
Currently, the department is focused on internal resource mobilization to enhance their capacity. Another process underway is the legislative review, with plans to enlist a service provider for this task. The review will assess the existing legal framework governing inland fisheries, seeking to establish a unified framework that aligns seamlessly across the country.
Furthermore, the DFFE inland team is in the process of establishing task teams comprising diverse stakeholders of inland water bodies that will include, small-scale fishers and to facilitate co-management. Each region will have a designated task team to address on-the-ground challenges.
In September, during the roundtable with DFFE, Vanderkloof and Gariep, although the communities were open to the department’s update and engagement, there is still a major concern around the timeline to access rights. Inland fishing access rights and authorisation systems will only be implemented in April 2025-2027.
Jeremia Jordaan, a local fisher from Venterstad, inquired about the department’s progress in implementing provisional measures while they await access rights.
“We are in discussions with our legal division and actively engaging with the head of departments from each province to negotiate on the regulations so fishers can have access. This is what we can do in the meantime” said the Department.
DFFE inland team also visited Venterstad and Norvalspont to engage key stakeholders to the inland water bodies like, the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) and lodges next to the river, to broaden their understanding of the issues that are happening around the dam that impact local fishers.
“We appreciate the efforts of the national inland team to visit and engage with communities at local level and try to understand their issues. However, inland small-scale fishers are still struggling for access to dams whether it be due to private owned land or unaffordable access fees resulting in not being able to put food on the table” said Clarence Oliphant from Masifundise.