Last week Masifundise’s Michelle Joshua and Coastal Links SA members from Arniston met with fishers from Melkhoutfontein and Vermaaklikheid in Stilbaai, Western Cape.
“The visits to Melkhoutfontein and Vermaaklikheid were both very refreshing and enlightening, fishers showed great interest in becoming organized and receiving information relating to the sector” said Michelle.
The fishing community in Melkhoutfontein consists of approximately 3000 people while the Vermaaklikheid community consist of about 200 people. Both communities have a history of traditional fishing and are almost 100% dependent on marine resources.
“Access to Melkhoutfontein was relatively easy besides travelling on a tar road throughout our destination,” commented Michelle
The road to Vermaaklikheid was more challenging and after almost an hour on a dirt road, the crew found the community tucked away on a hill almost 6 km from their traditional fishing grounds.
“This area is so secluded, that even the Arniston Coastal Links fishers who accompanied us on the trip, and who often fished in that area did not know about this community,” continued Michelle.
The meetings were attended by both SSF and commercial fishers. Fishers shared stories and difficulties they face, fishing gear, and fishing hot spots, but most alarming and concerning were their discussions around fish prices.
Vermaaklikheid fishers are getting R7 p/kg for Silverfish and R18 p/kg for Kappeljou and this after walking 6km to fish. Further to this, a lack of access to vessels keeps them vulnerable and dependent on the rich boat owners often forcing many into seasonal employment (farming, domestic work and gardening) where they are further exploited.
“If you compare these prices to Arniston fishers who get R20 p/kg for Silverfish and up to R45 p/kg for Kappeljou, the fishers in Vermaaklikheid are really getting a raw deal,” said John Europa a fisher from Arniston.
Some of the commercial fishers who attended the meetings were keen to know if they could join CLSA and if they will benefit from the basket of rights described in the SSF policy. Others were bold enough to express their frustration and described ‘government as being unfair towards the commercial fishers – only giving them rights to limited species’.
Arniston fishers shared their experiences and benefits of belonging to CLSA. They told fishers how access to information has helped them make informed decisions more specifically about sector policies and processes that affect their livelihood.
“It was evident that in both communities there was a need to access information and community mobilisation.” Michelle commented further.
Both towns indicated their wish to join CLSA. The meetings were concluded by identifying a contact person who was tasked with gathering the broader fishing community to a meeting to share the work of MDT and Coastal Links.
MDT and CLSA will schedule a follow up meetings later in July.