The Inland Fisheries team from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has confirmed that it is currently developing a policy implementation plan that will be finalised in March 2023. This comes after the National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy was gazetted in February this year.

On 3 November, during Masifundise’s National Strategic Forum, inland small-scale fishing representatives from Jozini, Gariep and Vanderkloof had an opportunity to engage with the national inland fisheries department at DFFE.

The purpose of the meeting was for DFFE to share the plan for implementation of the policy and to discuss how to facilitate inland fishers’ challenges at local level.

Although the announcement of the implementation plan was welcomed by inland fishers, there were concerns around the timelines presented. The department stated that they would only establish inland fishing access rights and authorisation systems in April 2025-2027. The additional activities on the plan would commence next year.

During the meeting, December Menyuka, local fisher from Jozini, stated “if you are hungry, you cannot wait another day. What is the solution for this and what are the interim measures put in place while the policy is still being implemented?”

When asked why access rights will take 3 years to implement, Tshepo Sebake from DFFE, said “we need time to allocate resources for the development of implementation plan. Until finalisation of implementation plan, we cannot start the activities.”

“Without immediate access rights, inland fishers cannot fish at the dam and put food on the table. They also continue to experience harassment and criminalisation for wanting to perform livelihood activities because their rights aren’t recognised” said Carmen Mannarino, Programme manager at Masifundise.

Going forward, the DFFE inland fisheries team has committed to continuous engagement with inland communities and will look at interim measures that will address challenges around access to the dams.