AT 5am this morning, fishers from Ebenhaeser were visited by inspectors from the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), accompanied by police officers, who accused them of fishing in the Olifants River, and confiscated two of their boats.
Rhiaan Coetzee a fisher from Ebenhaeser, who at the moment catches line-fish in Doring Bay, says that the fishers were not caught on the waters catching fish.
“Every night the fishers moor their boats on the river banks, and that is where they found the boats, not on the water,” says Coetzee.
The officials indicated that the boats do not have DTS numbers, and that any boat without DTS numbers found on the waters could be confiscated.
Coetzee says that the reason for them not having any DTS numbers is because the permit of the fishers, who do net-fishing, has been delayed by the DAFF.
“DAFF is aware of it, and we as net-fishers, we have a verbal agreement with the DAFF that we can fish until such time as our permits will be issued”.
Salvester Don, the chairperson of the local Net-Fish and IR Committees in Ebenhaeser says that of the two boats that were confiscated, one was released in Lamberts Bay, and that the fishers must now make a way to get the boats back to Ebenhaezar.
“The other boat they have left in Doring Bay, and informed us that we can come and fetch it,” says Don.
This seems to be a deliberate action on the part of the officials of DAFF to make the life difficult for the fishers, since they took it from Ebenhaeser, and made a point of it to drop their boats in different communities, which is time consuming and costly.
Don is able to give some background to the story, by saying that as net-fishers they are in a situation which is not clear to them, and that the DAFF also does not seem to be clear about.
Don says that as net-fishers, who fish in the Olifants River, they have always fished under an exemption, since DAFF did not know whether to put them under the IR.
“Until 2010 we fished under the exemption, but then our permits were changed to an IR permit, this caused a lot of confusion, since there was no consultation.”
In Ebenhaeser there are 45 fishers on the net-fish permit, allowed to fish on the Olifants River, and it is now an IR Permit.
This permit has been issued until 2014, but was not renewed for the current season, due to some issues that DAFF still has to sort out.
“DAFF now wants to put net-fishing as part of FRAP, since 2001 we were not given any rights, but only exemptions. Now under FRAP DAFF wants to issue 120 rights along the whole coastline of South Africa, from Port Nolloth up to the East Coast. Where will this leave us, since we are already 45 rights holders in Ebenhaeser alone?”
Since all the people listed on the last permit are now catching illegally, Don feels that some drastic action needs to be taken to get their permit.
“We will have to get DAFF to issue our permits, we must survey our boats and get it ready for the waters.”
He says that the inspectors from DAFF have indicated that they will return next week to see if their boats are seaworthy and whether they do have the permits to fish.
“We need to get all our things in order, otherwise a lot of us will go hungry in December.
Both Coetzee and Don are members of Coastal Links SA, and Don says that CLSA has a strong branch of more than 90 members in Ebenhaeser, consisting of fishers, women and other community members who are involved in fishing.
The Hook was unable to get comment from DAFF. We will attempt to get their version of events for the next edition of The Hook, next week.