On the 5 September, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) announced that the Western Cape High Court has reviewed and set aside the 2016-2019 process of verification of Small-scale Fishers in the Western Cape province.

Last year, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbra Creecy, approached the High Court to review and set aside the process of awarding small-scale fishing rights in the Western Cape. This came after an audit process in 2020, that found the verification process to be “wholly inadequate and that the results of the assessments cannot and should not be relied on for any decision-making purpose in terms of the Regulations”.

The new process of verifying bona-fide small-scale fishers in the Western Cape has commenced. The process is only open to those who previously participated in the original verification process in 2016 and those who were part of the court intervention.

The department has also confirmed that proof of fishing experience post 2016 will be considered during the verification process.

The new process will be implemented by the department through three overarching phases. These are, verification (which include mobilisation, distribution of verification forms and final list of SFF), appeals and announcement of SSF and the establishment of the cooperatives.

An independent implementing service provider has been appointed and an observer forum will also be established. Both will promote neutrality, transparency and fairness in the entire process.

Masifundise and Coastal Links welcomes this new process in the Western Cape and encourage small-scale fishers to participate in the process to avoid being excluded from the sector in the long term.

It should be recognised that there are fishers that are still excluded in the new process, especially youth and women. There are also outstanding issues that are hindering the full and effective realisation of the rights of small-scale fishers along the entire national coastline.

Masifundise and Coastal links will continue to support the fight of fishing communities for social, economic and environmental justice and for their meaningful inclusion in decision-making and policy processes impacting on their rights and livelihoods.