This was an important month for small-scale fishers around the country.

Representatives of Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA), a mass-based organisation of thousands of small-scale fishers submitted their comments on the MLRA Amendment Bill to the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Parliament on 16 October 2013.

The adoption of the amended MLRA, will lay the basis for the implementation of the small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy, which was adopted by Cabinet last year, following almost a decade of struggles, campaigns, advocacy and research.

This has potential to change the lives of fisher folk around the country and here in Cape Town

in communities such as The Strand, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Kalk Bay, Ocean View, Hout Bay and elsewhere.

Masifundise’s vision is of empowered fishing communities with sustainable livelihoods, where all live in a democratic and socially just environment.

Much of our work over the last ten years has focused on ensuring the adoption and implementation of a progressive small-scale fisheries policy that enhances the prospect of sustainable livelihoods for fishers in along the coast.

The implementation of this policy will have much symbolism and meaning, as it will restore significant rights to fishers, 100 years after the 1913 Land Act dispossessed people of their land and subsequent acts deprived them of access to the ocean.

In 2005, government adopted long-term fishing policies that made no provision for small-scale fishers. Masifundise took the matter to the Equality Court in 2006. In 2007, the court ordered that a new policy be developed and an interim relief package for small-scale fishers be formulated and implemented. The policy was finally adopted by Cabinet in June 2012.

We are pleased that a significant majority of our policy proposals have been included in the finalised policy.

Benefits of the new policy include the following: The formal recognition of artisanal fishing communities; a move to collective fishing rights, away from the individual quota system that excluded the majority of fishers at community level; the demarcation of preferential fishing zones for small-scale fishers, where they will be able to harvest or catch several species 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; improved marine resource management and conservation.

The current MLRA laid the basis for the exclusion of small-scale fishers from the 2005 fishing allocation. The law as it stands does not allow for the implementation of the new policy, adopted in June 2012.

The 2005 General Long-term fishing allocation policy entrenched the weaknesses of the MLRA, leading to the exclusion of traditional fishing communities from the right to sustainable living.

The Marine living Resources Amendment Bill, 2013 is a direct result of the Equality Court ruling of 2007, which said that the MLRA discriminates against small-scale fishers and is inequitable. The amendments are necessary to implement the small-scale (SSF) fisheries policy.

We are broadly in favour of the Bill because it gives legal recognition to small-scale fishers and makes a decisive shift from a focus on just fishing rights allocations to a broader approach that includes community and economic development, customary practices, gender equity, and the building of capacity.

We urge government to adopt the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill without further delay.

Naseegh Jaffer

Director, Masifundise Development Trust.

Masifundise Development Trust

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