A small-scale fisheries policy is being developed for small-scale fishers in inland streams across South Africa, and is separate from the Programme on Aquaculture that is also being developed by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

According to Palesa Mokomele, Communications Director: Fisheries Management at DAFF, the department appointed consultants in 2015 to look at developing a viable policy for inland fisheries, which will include subsistence fishing, small-scale fishing, recreational fishing and commercial fishing user groups.

“Yes, we are currently developing the National Inland Fisheries Policy Framework for South Africa,” she said.

The policy is for the entire inland Fisheries Sector, inclusive of small-scale fisheries,” Mokomele answered to a set of questions from ‘The Hook’.

Mokomele said that the development of the policy is still at an early stage, and that they have not reached the public consultation stage yet.

“However, there will be an extensive public participation on the development of this policy as per normal policy development process. However, the policy is informed by the DAFF/WRC (Water Research Council) study on the sector which included on the ground consultations with various stakeholders.”

She explained that the inland fisheries policy must not be confused with the Aquaculture Policy of the department.

“The policy focuses on inland fisheries (capture fisheries) and not aquaculture (farm fish). There is currently an Aquaculture Bill which is in development that focuses on aquaculture.

“There are strategies dealing with aquaculture such as the Aquaculture work-stream of Operation Phakisa LAB reports, and the National Aquaculture Strategic Framework, which are not relevant to Inland Fisheries Policy.”

Mokomele said that all types of fishing methods that are currently found on inland rivers and lakes will be recognised, and that it will include methods like kraal fishing, net-fishing, line-fishing, trapping, and also new technologies.

“The policy will recognise traditional fishing practices as well as modern fishing practices.”

Marine fishing and resources are generally that which is regarded as salt water fishing, or fishing and resources that are found in the ocean.

The policy in the main will concern itself with fresh-water fishing that happens on lakes, rivers, dams and other waterbodies in the interior of the country.

Rivers and streams that run into the ocean, or found near to the coast, in this instance are regarded as estuaries, fishers fishing in these estuaries will be regarded as being part of the marine fishing industry and are covered by the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), according to Mokomele.

“If it is considered to be marine fisheries/ estuarine fisheries then the Policy will not be applicable. The policy will only be applicable to fisheries in inland water bodies.”

Whether the policy will be similar to the small-scale fisheries policy, Mokomele indicated that there will be similarities due to the fact that the small-scale fisheries is a component to be found in both marine and inland fisheries.

She indicated that what inland fishing communities will expect from the inland fisheries policy will still have to be factored into the policy through consultation processes with fishing communities.

“This policy is in the early stages of development. At this stage it is too early in the process to give a definitive implementation date.

“The first draft of the policy is still going through internal processes. It is therefore not possible to provide exact timeframes of when it will be published”.

So, it seems like it is still some time before the first draft of the National Inland Fisheries Policy Framework for South Africa will get to the small-scale fishers eking out a living on the dams, rivers, lakes and other inland waterbodies.

At the moment, no policy exists for small-scale fishers on inland and fresh water streams, except for those that are near to the oceans which are regarded as estuaries.

Inland small-scale fishers are presently fishing without any permits or rights, and in many cases are regarded as subsistence fishers, whereas they are in fact true small commercial fishers who fish to earn a sustainable living.

Subsistence fishers only catch for the pot, but the fishers on inland streams, many who use century-old fishing techniques like fishing kraals at Vanderkloof Dam and trap fishing in Kosi Bay, are small-scale fishers in their own right.

At present the only rights or permits issued for inland fishing are recreational fishing permits, which some inland small-scale fishers use to catch fish in certain situations.

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