For immediate release
9 November 2023
This year, as in previous years, the Western Cape small-scale fishers are under distress after the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) announced a 16.43% reduction of the West Coast Rock Lobster Total Allowable Catch (WCRL TAC) for the 2023/2024 fishing season.
This directly impacts the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) sector, with near shore allocation dropping from 93.9 tons to 78.54 tons and offshore allocation decreasing from 69.1 tons to 57.79 tons. The SSF sector in the Western Cape and Northern Cape heavily relies on WCRL as a high-value species, constituting a significant portion of their annual income. These TAC cuts directly reduce the annual income of SSF, making it harder for them to meet their basic needs.
Masifundise and Coastal Links express the following concerns regarding the announcement of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL):
- The DFFE’s management approach for WCRL, which focuses on consistently reducing allocation to protect the resource, lacks evidence of its effectiveness.
- The Department’s current management system of the resource indicates an ineffective management system. In the scientific approach in assessing available stocks, indigenous knowledge of small-scale fishers is disregarded and the overall management approach hinders their socio-economic development and prioritises a purely technical and western-centric understanding to the fishery.
- For small-scale fishers, their connection to WCRL extends beyond livelihood, encompassing cultural, traditional, and historical ties to their ancestors’ way of life. In the way DFFE is regulating the sector, we are witnessing a progressive disappearance of this activity not only on an economic level but also an integral part of the social and cultural heritage of small-scale fishing communities. The approach that is being fostered in relation to WCRL is the same that led to the closing of the Abalone Fishery 15 years ago.
- This leads to further criminalisation of fishers who are trying to put food on the table and support their families, as no alternative solutions are provided that look at reducing profit-making of large companies who also harvest WCRL.
- Nearshore allocation for both the commercial and SSF sector is the same.
- The implementation of the Small-scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) in all four coastal provinces is being finalized, with the completion of the rights allocation process in the Western Cape expected to happen this month. However, there remains an unmet demand from the Small-scale Fisheries (SSF) sector for a more substantial increase in nearshore allocation relative to the commercial sector.
- Enhancing nearshore allocation is crucial as it offers SSF a more viable fishing option, particularly when offshore access is limited.
- Presently, SSF cooperatives often depend on the commercial sector to compensate for their offshore allocation/permit shortfall, incurring additional expenses such as catching fees. We urge the department to re-evaluate this situation and fulfil the SSF sector’s request, allowing them to fully utilize their rights and basket of species.
- The SSF Policy was developed to ensure that the SSF sector is economically viable for small-scale fishers and that the Department should play a role in assisting and empowering fishing communities to develop its own marketing and processing to derive maximum benefits from marine resources in the area.
- Recently, DFFE hosted a meeting between Western Cape co-operatives and marketers to collaborate and engage on the exporting and selling of fish. Although, rights have only been allocated recently, we still see the SSFP not realised in its implementation.
- In 2021, as the TAC was again reduced, fishers pressured the Department to take a different approach. Minister Creecy formed a Consultative Advisory Forum (CAF) to engage on this long-standing issue. The CAF Report states that “Fishing communities need to receive fair benefits along the entire value chain. This will require capacity building and mechanisms to support regulation of marketers”. However, up until today, we see this has not been realised. The department’s assistance should contribute to the development of local markets and see an increase in opportunity for women and youth to work in the value-chain activities.
- In the Northern Cape, the Aukotowa SSF cooperative has been active for 5 years and still have not received capacity building and mechanisms to support a local market.
- Delays in the finalisation of the TAC.
- In the Northern Cape, the fishing season started on the 15 October. This means small-scale fishers in the province have been robbed of almost a month’s fishing activities. This is a regular occurrence in the fisheries sector. Every year, the allocation and permits are issued late by the department and this impacts on the SSF’s ability to properly plan their livelihood activities. As a result, this directly affects their efforts to secure a liveable income and to put food on the table not only for their families but the communities who also depend on these resources.
- Finally, the official rights have not been granted to cooperatives yet in the Western Cape and the outcome of appeals have not been finalised. There is a major concern that rights will be granted before appeal outcomes. This means, the cooperative might obtain the permit while those who appealed will be excluded for a period of time.
We urge on the Department to address these concerns and to implement co-management in the Northern and Western Cape in the small-scale sector to develop a more inclusive and participatory approach to fisheries management of the WCRL resource.
Issued by Masifundise Development Trust and Coastal Links South Africa.
For media inquiries:
Naseegh Jaffer (Director):
082 577 0622
Carmen Mannarino (Programme Manager):
071 283 3179
Carmelita Mostert (Saldanha Bay):
084 756 2203
Rovina Eurpoa (Arniston):
083 937 8293