DOES co-management of resources in the fishing sector exist, some people believe that it somehow existed on the Olifants River in the Matzikama region of the north West Coast, but Nico Waldeck, Masifundise fieldworker and Salvester Don, a fisher on the Olifants River believe otherwise.

The fact that fishers are given permits over which they do not have a say on how much they can catch, where they can catch it, and how they can catch it, all important aspects decided upon by government officials, does not point to co-management according to Waldeck.

Waldeck says that a management forum for the Olifants River Estuary has been established and that fishers and other interested groups sit on this management forum, but it is in no way a co-management system.

“It was established for the management of the estuary and not for fishing, and it was only when the fishers joined the management committee that the issues of the fishers were put on the table of the management committee,” says Waldeck.

In the beginning, the estuary committee wanted to keep the fishers out of the estuary, and wanted to keep them 16km away from the estuary, but when the fishers started giving inputs into the discussions, they pushed for the restrictions to be removed.

“The discussions went on for a while, with the fishers getting the committee to make concessions on the 16km, and eventually a consultant from UCT was called in to help with sorting out the problems.”

Waldeck says that the consultant eventually put forward a plan, but this was never implemented by the estuary management committee.

Waldeck also alludes to the fact that the fishers are now somewhat a little worse off than what they were before becoming part of the management committee.

“Previously the fishers were all fishing under an exemption in the Olifants River, but since 2014 they have all been put under the Interim Relief (IR) system, requiring the fishers to have their boats surveyed.”

Waldeck says that now the fishers cannot go out fishing since they cannot get their IR unless they present their SAMSA survey certificates.

He believes that if there was co-management on the Olifants River, these kinds of problems would have been sorted out.

Salvester Don, a Coastal Links (CLSA) member fishing on the Olifants River believes that if there was co-management of resources, many of the problems they experiencing would not exist.

For instance he says that that they have submitted all their documents for their net fishing boats at the department, but that they are just not getting any answers.

He believes that people and organisations that work together and manage the resources together, do not treat each other in that manner, especially when it comes to one group of people’s livelihoods.

He says that because they have not been issued their permits, the inspectors from the department regularly harass them, and in the last four weeks the fishers have been dragged in front of the courts four times and have four cases against them.

Don believes that how the river is managed is a one-sided affair and that the government officials make their own decisions and expects the fishers to follow the instructions coming from government.

The fishers of the Olifants River mainly catch harders, and because many of them are net fishers, they also catch other species of fish in their nets, which include cob, springers, barbers, elves, kabeljou and yellow mouth.

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