Fishers from Struisbaai, Hawston and Arniston got a chance to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana a wide range of questions concerning their own livelihoods, and in no way held back, according to Rowina Marthinus, Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) member from Arniston.

Marthinus and a large group of fishers made the trip from Arniston on Tuesday July 19, and attended the meeting organised by the Cape Agulhas Municipality in the Community Hall in Struisbaai.

Marthinus says that the fishers were impressed with what Zokwana  said at the meeting, and when asked whether this was not one of those election promises meetings, Marthinus said that they were hopeful that it is not so.

“The minister was here two weeks ago, and said that some of his staff members must come and answer some of the questions the fishers had put to him in the meeting two weeks ago,” said Marthinus.

“He kept his word and came back two weeks later and introduced the new DDG (deputy director general for fisheries management) Siphokazi (Ndundane), and other department staff.”

Marthinus says the fishers asked the minister lots of questions they especially wanted to know about the implementation of the small scale fishing policy.

“Fishers wanted to know about the zones for small scale fishers, the sizes of the baskets of fish that will be allocated and about the line fish and what will be allocated to the commercial sector and what will be allocated to the small scale sector.”

Marthinus said that Zokwana explained that he understood some of the problems the fishers experience and that in some instances it is not what is allocated to the fishers, but about the processes used in selling their fish.

He indicated that he would like to see a change in policy in favour of fishers processing and marketing their own fish, since the middlemen, or the marketers take a lot of what the fish is sold for in the market.

Marthinus said Zokwana promised that when he leaves, he will look at how to handle issues that affect small scale fishers, and hope it can help to improve fishers’ lives.

On the small scale fisheries policy, Marthinus said that the minister indicated that soon the list of people to be accredited as small scale fishers will be approved by DAFF and in each community the list of approved fishers will be available for viewing at a public place like a library or community centre.

“An appeals process will start once the list of names has been published, fishers can lodge appeals against names that should not be on the list, and appeal against names that have been omitted.”

Marthinus said the Zokwana told the meeting that one of the scientists that was contracted to do research into the different fish species did not have his contract renewed.

“The minister said that this is one of the scientists that only uses technology to do their research instead of going out with the fishers to collect their data.”

“The minister said that the department will also look into how the fishing communities can get the squid and harder permits back if the species have shown in improvement in numbers.”

“He will also look into getting abalone for the small scale fishers.”

The minister told the meeting that fishers must not only look at fishing permits, but that they should also look at tourism and related industries as the coastal communities lend themselves to these industries.

Marthinus said that the fishers told the minister that they also have difficulties in these other industries because in the end these industries also require of them to have permits, as is the case in the fishing industry.

About whether this is just part of the minister’s election campaign, Marthinus said that the fishers are wary of this, and people have indicated two weeks ago that if the minister was not going to come back, they will refuse to vote in the local government elections.

On a positive note, Marthinus said that Minister Zokwana said that he wants to set up a DAFF office in the community where the fishers of Arniston and Struisbaai can come and raise their issues.

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