Small-scale fishers have been applying for commercial fishing rights during the current FRAP (Fishing Rights Allocation Process), mainly due to the uncertainty about the implementation of the small-scale fishing policy, and some fishers think it might not be a good thing to do.

Salvester Don, Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) member in Ebenhaeser on the North West Coast, believes that this might not be a good idea, since it might not be sustainable in the long run for the small-scale fisher, and then he might find himself outside of the small-scale-fishing policy, which would have offered him a more sustainable livelihood.

“In Ebenhaeser, one fisher was successful in applying for a commercial fishing right, that is good for the fisher if he can make it work, and we wish him all the best going forward,” said Don.

But, Don feels that there are not proper mechanisms in place for small-scale fishers to go commercial.

For instance, he believes that there might not be a proper market for small commercial fishers, and that there is not a factory nearby to which the commercial fishers can sell their fish to.

“The permit has only been issued for net-fishing and he is only allowed to target one species of fish, and then there is also the problem of having the proper gear to make it in the commercial sector.”

Don believes that it is much better for fishers in his community to work on the community based permit that will come with the small-scale fisheries policy.

Rowina Marthinus, CLSA member in Arniston, also believes that the uncertainty that is happening around the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy, has led to some small-scale fishers in her community to apply for commercial fishing rights.

“Two fishers who were on Interim Relief (IR), but who are not CLSA members also applied for commercial fishing rights,” said Marthinus.

“When DAFF spoke to us during the registration of small-scale fishers, they said that both commercial fishers and small-scale fishers can apply to be part of the small-scale fisheries policy.”

The small-scale fisheries policy does make provision for small-scale commercial fishers to be part of the small-scale fisheries policy, providing they waive their commercial rights, or make their commercial right part of the community right as provided for in the policy.

The uncertainties around the small-scale fisheries policy, which Don and Marthinus talk about, are that fishers feel that their names might not appear on the final list of fishers that DAFF might pronounce for their communities.

Another one is the fact that DAFF took very long to start the process of implementing the small-scale fisheries policy.

When they finally started, they began with the registration of the fishers, since then they have in no way communicated with the different fishing communities what their next move will be, and communities must just wait to hear from them.

DAFF has also not pronounced on what they will be putting in the baskets for the different fishing communities, and where the line-fish are concerned, fishing communities do not know where they stand, who will get line-fish and who will not get.

And, most importantly according to Don and Marthinus, many fishers throughout the country are without any fishing rights, because the IR only makes provision for a certain amount of fishers, leaving thousands of fishers without any rights.

All of this creates an uncertain situation, and every time when the FRAP comes along, small-scale fishers are tempted to go for commercial fishing rights.

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