On 18 May, the Langebaan small-scale fishers wrote a letter to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) regarding the number of boats registered on their permit. They were assisted by the Legal Resources Centre and supported by Masifundise.
The letter challenged the department’s decision to reduce the number of boats allowable on the permit to 3 boats from the usual 11 boats available.
A 2010 court ordered agreement stated that there were 3 rights granted as Interim Relief (IR) for net fishing in Langebaan.
These 3 rights are communal rights for the 31 fishers who were recognized as the small-scale (IR) fishers in Langebaan. This was to ensure an equitable use of the permit amongst the small-scale fishing community. It was agreed that 11 boats would be rotated to exercise the 3 rights at a time.
Permitting 3 boats to the small-scale fishers puts their livelihoods at risk. They will not make a decent living off fishing as, the number of fishers able to go to sea will become less and this will inhibit their ability to catch and sell fish to support their livelihood.
On 25 May, DFFE responded to the fishers and reinstated their original permit, “Therefore, the 11 vessels will be reflected on the permit while only a maximum of 3 vessels must fish at any given fishing trip per day.” said Nhlanhla Nkosi, Deputy Director of Small-scale Fisher Operations at DFFE.
Due to permit changes, small-scale fishers only received their permits almost a month later on 21 June 2022.
Despite the Coastal Links Langebaan and Others v Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Others court victory, Langebaan fishers continue to be restricted from fishing in Zone B. The very same permit that allowed for 11 boats had then restricted their fishing zone area to just Zone A of the Lagoon.
Solene Smith, Coastal links leader from Langebaan, attended a meeting with West Coast National Park to address this issue on 23 June, “We didn’t have to bring out the court order. We just spoke through the issue and it was resolved. Our zone rights were granted.”
This a victory for the Langebaan fishers who were able to assert their rights and demand access to traditional fishing grounds. This also speaks to DFFE’s failure to recognize the Langebaan small-scale fishers’ rights as they have been struggling with this particular issue since 2016.
Going forward, the Langebaan small-scale fishing community will continue with ongoing engagements with SANParks and DFFE to discuss co-management.