In the month of April and May, the inland fishers from the communities of Gariep, Norvalspont, Venterstad and Oviston, have been in ongoing engagements with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) around the lack of access and the exorbitant daily access fee to traditional fishing grounds.
This comes after fishers peacefully protested outside the offices of ECPTA in March 2022 and handed over a letter stating their grievances and demands. Their demands focused on the lack of access to the reserve to fish for livelihood purposes.
As a result of the protest, on 7 April a meeting was held between the fishers, ECPTA and Masifundise. ECPTA provided responses in writing and committed to continue engaging with the fishers on this issue.
On 12 May, the Venterstad fishers attended a separate meeting held by ECPTA to address the Community Liaison Forum regarding developments within the Nature Reserve. Fishers viewed this as an opportunity to raise their concerns around the R25 daily access fee which is not affordable to them.
Contrary to the collaborative nature in which the forum was conducted, the officials were dismissive of the fishers plea to reduce the daily access fee and allow them to pay R25 every 3 months.
Representatives from each community came together to discuss and formulate comments on the ECPTAs response and plan to hand it over to ECPTA in June.
Moving forward, inland fishers would like access to the reserve and to fish without being harassed by reserve rangers. In the meantime, the fishers will elect someone who can represent them on the Nature Reserve Forum.
Inland small-scale fishers seek to build solidarity with other inland fishing communities and will fight to ensure that their livelihood activities are protected and promoted.