Kwazulu Natal fishers still persecuted

Arrests, harassment and restrictions are among the obstacles faced by small-scale fishers in parts of Kwazulu Natal (KZN).

The rules and practices governing small-scale fisheries are making it very difficult for fishers to make sustainable livelihoods. The immediate implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy will alleviate much of their plight. 

Fishers in KZNl have difficulty in acquiring fishing permits, but even when they do, the permits prevent them from selling parts of their catch. Their counterparts in the Western Cape and Northern Cape do not have such restrictions.

Fishers believe that Marine Protected Areas are important for the preservation of marine resources but their management often curtails the rights of small-scale fishers to decent livelihoods.

In March this year, about 100 fishers, mainly from Nibela and Nkundise on the KZN South Coast, marched to the office of KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife to hand over a memorandum of grievances.

The fishers outlined at least 30 grievances in the memorandum in which they allege the following;

  • The beating and shooting of fishers by the KZN Ezemvelo wildlife
  • The destruction of boats and nets
  • Lack of consultation by the organisation and its researchers regarding  marine resources
  • Permits, land grabbing and funding issues

The march was a stance taken by the fishers after their boats and nets were confiscated by the KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife Trust early in February.

Ezemvelo provided a detailed response, which stated, among other things:

“Any equipment used in an illegal activity is seized by Ezemvelo and South African Police Services as a legal requirement. In this instance, the boats are also illegal in terms of safety requirements and are a serious hazard due to the presence of crocodiles and hippos in Lake St Lucia”.

“The use of gillnets is not legal in the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, or any KZN estuaries and freshwater lakes and rivers and the use of gillnets is prohibited countrywide in term of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA)”.

The fishers maintain that current fisheries management discriminates against them and have asked Masifundise and Coastal Links to step in so that the small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy can be urgently implemented.

The SSF policy will open up new possibilities for small-scale fishers in KZN and the rest of the country.

Benefits of the new policy include the following:

  • The formal, legal recognition of small-scale fishing communities, for the first time.
  • A move to collective fishing rights, away from the individual quota system that excluded the majority.
  • The demarcation of exclusive fishing zones for small scale fishers, where they will be able to harvest or catch anything throughout the year. The potential for ongoing sustainable income will be considerably enhanced. These zones will be out of bounds for big commercial fishing companies.
  • Clear benefits for women, in fishing communities, from both fishing and value chain involvement.
  • Women will be able to actively take part in fishing activities and participate in the management and regulatory systems at local and national level.
  • Improved marine resource co-management.
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