On 22 February, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE) national inland fisheries hosted a roundtable in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal. The meeting provided a platform for inland small-scale fishers in the area to discuss issues around access to the Jozini dam for fishing  as well as a chance for the department to give an update on the  implementation of the National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy. The roundtable comprised of different stakeholders that are key in the area such as fishing communities, traditional leaders, DFFE officials, lodge owners’ association representative, SAPS, Ezemvelo and Masifundise.

During the roundtable, inland fishers highlighted their struggles around criminalization and harassment while securing their livelihood activities that provide food to their families. Over the years the absence of a legislative framework has left inland fishing communities susceptible and prone to violence.

In Jozini, local fishers have faced numerous incidences of victimization including, having their boats and gear confiscated as well as harassment from local authorities that has led to the intimidation of inland fishers while securing their livelihood activities. They further highlighted the importance of their customary fishing practices and indigenous fishing knowledge.

“The idea of fishing sustainably is not new to us as fishers. We know which areas we can fish in and those we cannot. We understand which species are off limits and what are the appropriate size fish to catch. Our customary knowledge has always guided how we fish and the sustainable practices we use,” said Vusi Myeni, inland fisher from Jozini.

In addition, Jozini fisherfolk requested that provisional measures be put in place while they await the implementation of the Inland Fishing policy. The DFFE inland team committed to further engagement where the provincial government, Department of Water and Sanitation as well as other relevant stakeholders will be included in order to take a step towards resolving the challenges of fishers on the ground.

Project Coordinator at Masifundise, Sibongiseni Gwebani, noted that the roundtable has been an important advocacy moment for Jozini Fishers as inland fishers have been subjected to multiple challenges around securing their livelihood activities, “The roundtable allowed fishers to engage directly with the DFFE and many other important stakeholders responsible for the challenges they face,” said Gwebani.

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