Port Nolloth is a coastal town located in in the Namaqualand region on the north western coast of South Africa, 144 km northwest of Springbok.
The town was established in 1854 as a small-vessel harbour for the copper-mining industry, and according to Harry Coraizin, a 78-year old small-scale fisherman, became a fishing village in 1953.
In 1960, a fish processing factory was opened and this, along with the blooming diamond mining industry, became the main source of income and employment for the entire community. The fish factory closed in 1993, leaving many women factory workers and small-scale fishers without work. The compensation received by those working at the factory when retrenched was insignificant.
The Aukotowa Small-scale Fisheries Cooperative in Port Nolloth is the first small-scale fisheries cooperative in South Africa. The cooperative was established in 2018 as part of the implementation of the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy.
The Port Nolloth harbour, is where small-scale fishers launch their boats and where the cooperative has its offices, and is also home to the remnants of the fish-processing factory. One of the main challenges faced by Small-scale Fishers in this town is the poor state of the jetty, which currently cannot be used and constitutes a danger, as it is falling apart.
The Aukotowa co-op has since been able to gain members (which includes women and young people), receive a basket of species, manage their own marketing and is determined that this organisation will begin to change the small-scale fisheries environment in ways that benefit their local fishing communities, as well as their immediate families.
The Port Nolloth community have also been battling several extractive developments set to take place on the coast that will negatively impact their environment.
In the Northern Cape, there are active cofferdams being run by diamond mining company and the Boegoebaai Harbour is another development to be led by the Northern Cape provincial government and is intended for economic opportunities that could change the socio-economic status of the province. The development of the Boegbaai harbour to facilitate the commercialization of gas and green hydrogen is particularly of concerns for fishers, especially given the bad conditions of the Port Nolloth’s SSF harbour.
Most recently, they have fought against Eco Atlantic, whose oil rig departed the North Sea on August 12, that intends to drill an exploration well to assess the hydrocarbon potential as part of its exploration right granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).
Despite the influx of these developments, the local fishers from this community are committed in their fight against extractive developments that will harm marine life and negatively impact their livelihoods.