Fishing Community Profile:
Ebenhaeser is a small fishing community located in the Matzikama Local Municipality on the West Coast, South Africa. The town is 340 km north of Cape Town and can be reached via Vredendal about 37km inland.
Ebenhaeser is uniquely known for being situated on the Olifants river bank, near the river mouth. This allows small-scale fishers from the area to fish on both the river and sea.
The local fisherfolk depend on fishing for their livelihood. Alternative livelihoods present in the community are farming and collecting and selling of salt from the salt pans.
In the Western Cape, the implementation of small-scale fishers’ rights (SSF) is yet to be done, since the adoption of the Small-scale Fisheries Policy in 2012. This has hindered the ability of SSF in Ebenhaeser to fully perform their livelihood activities.
The minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s (DFFE) decided to redo the small-scale fishers’ rights allocation in the Western Cape. This decision came after a review of the implementation process that was commissioned by Minister Creecy in 2021.
The review found the verification process to be “wholly inadequate” and therefore, cannot be relied on for decision-making purposes. In April this year, the minister announced that only 8500 applicants would be reviewed meaning, those who did not apply previously would not be able to apply in this verification process.
The Olifants fishers will contest this decision as they did not apply, through no fault of their own. They were not aware that the SFF Policy applied to them. DFFE failed to consult communities adequately during the verification process and as a result, some communities were unable to apply.
The small-scale fishers from this community are part of an organised structure called the Olifants Fishers. This group includes SSF from Ebenhaeser, Papendorp and Dooringbaai. They meet on a monthly basis to discuss the state of small-scale fisheries in their region. They are one of the most organised SSF communities who work to speak with one voice on issues that impact their livelihoods.