12 January 2014

Media Release:

Masifundise supports a fisheries allocation process that benefits those most in need

The furore around the line fish allocations is still raging, even after government granted interim relief to previous rights holders.

As an organisation that works with thousands of small-scale fishers around the country, we need to offer a few critical comments on this matter.

The previous line fish allocation in 2005 excluded the approximately 30 000 small-scale fishers and was found by a court of law (the Equality Court -2008), to be unjust and discriminatory.

Then, the allocations were done mainly on old apartheid lines with the majority being non-deserving beneficiaries. Many in this group were white, already resourced, had access to other sources of income and were not traditional fishers. The sophisticated system developed at that time did not lead to transformation.

455 individuals, mainly boat owners, were awarded line fishing rights for a period of eight years. The fact that many were undeserving is not the only alarming fact. Nearly half of them did not use their ‘right’ at all or did not use it in a productive manner. Many of the rights holders did not use people listed in a register drawn up by the Department of Fisheries. Where they were used, several were poorly treated and badly paid.

The fact that there was huge discrimination in the 2005 allocation process and the fact that rights were either not used at all, or used inefficiently, strongly support the need for a huge shake up in the allocation process. More so it requires a new system by which fishing rights are allocated to traditional fishing communities.

If we accept the Equality Court ruling that the 2005 allocation process was unjust and discriminatory, then it is logical that the current process must lead to substantial changes.

If the department drives the current process in order to advance equity, sustainable livelihoods and environmental justice, then few can argue with this.

The adoption of the progressive small-scale fisheries policy in 2012 and the amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act, in November last year, by the National Assembly, provides new opportunities for marginalised fishers. It still awaits the approval of the NCOP before final endorsement by parliament.

Many of those who now work on commercial fishing boats will qualify for rights in terms of the new dispensation. In addition, they will be part of collectives that are given access to training, equipment and markets.

Many of the boat owners who were allocated rights in terms of discriminatory practices and who now may not have these awarded this time round have access to other businesses and sources of income.

We are pleased that our views are shared by many civil society groups across South Africa, such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions who has asserted that benefits should accrue to fishers who are most in need and not already empowered individuals, of whatever race or political persuasion.

We are very concerned that some newspaper journalists fail to outline the historical context regarding fishing rights. We hope that it is just an innocent weakness, related to the lack of resources in the media industry, and not a conscious effort to maintain the unfair status quo. Either way, it does a disservice to readers.

We support an allocation process that allows as many fishers as possible to work and eat and improve their quality of life.

Issued by Naseegh Jaffer, Director, Masifundise Development Trust, corner of Station and Long Streets, Mowbray, telephone 021 6854549 or 084 6615216.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial