The European Union (EU), Re-IncorpFish and Masifundise are jointly hosting a workshop with members of Coastal Links SA (CLSA) from all four coastal provinces to review how the policy implementation process around the small-scale fishing is getting along.

The workshop is from Tuesday February 9 – Thursday February 11, at Shalimar Gardens Hotel and Conference Centre in Surrey Estate, Athlone in Cape Town.

“We are reflecting and taking stock of where the implementation process is at, and outlining the processes lying ahead,” said Mandla Gqamlana, Programme Manager at Masifundise Development Trust.

Gqamlana said that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF-officials in the fisheries branch working with small scale fisheries-) are presenting a session.

Gqamlana says that through the workshop, they are trying to get to grips with the immediate activities that will happen in 2016 around the implementation of the SSF policy.

“We believe in a collaborative approach with DAFF, and we hope that DAFF will embrace our willingness to work with them, and to make the process work,” says Gqamlana.

But, above all, Gqamlana believes the most important aspect of the workshop is to “make ourselves ready to run with the implementation process and to understand it properly.”

Many questions are being posed at the workshop. “Are fishers empowered to share in the implementation of the SSF, are they working together with the government to ensure that all is implemented?”

In general, fisher leaders are very concerned at the slow pace of implementation.

Northern Cape fisher Elroy Adams said dates related to the implementation of the SSFP are not taken as seriously as those of the commercial rights sector.

“We are told that things will happen at a certain time but when the time comes, we hear a change of story from the department” he said.

The Interim Relief system which was meant to be in place for two years was prolonged for 10 years. There is no date to the promulgation of the MLRA act and the date of allocating rights under the policy has been changed from June 2015 to March 2016 to no certain date.

“People are getting impatient, and we have become spectators in a process that we are supposed to take part in”, Victor Shezi, KZN said.

Fishers say that the constant delays in the implementation of the policy are also causing a lack of trust in community leaders and the government.

“There is a lack of trust in our communities and this lack of trust is projected towards the leaders and the government,” Rovina Marthinus commented, “My community is in shambles because of the lack of the policy”.

Meanwhile the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) for commercial fisheries is moving quickly. Fishers feel that this process is negatively impacting on the SSFP and fishers.

Ayanda Yekani from Eastern Cape said that FRAP might get in the way of allocating a basket of species for small-scale fishers.

“Fishers need to put pressure on the government regarding FRAP, we can’t be left with an empty basket when it is time to allocate rights to small-scale fishers”.

During the workshop, the department through Abongile Ngongqwa, deputy Director for small-scale fishers said that the implementation of the policy is in progress.

“Regulations relating to Small-Scale Fisheries are finalised and now we are waiting for the promulgation of the Act by the President and this will change the implementation of SSFP”.

He said that though there are 270 communities who have submitted expression of interest forms there are currently no small-scale fishers verified.

“The Expression of interest process is still open for those communities who have not shown interest. The last round of expressions will be called after the promulgation of the act”, he reported.

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