Masifundise grieves the passing of comrade, colleague, friend and committed leader in the struggle for small-scale fishers in South Africa and globally, Norton Dowries. Norton passed away on Saturday, 13th May 2023 after suffering a heart attack. He was not only a strong activist in the struggle for small-scale fishing rights but, was also a founder of Coastal Links and at one time he also served as a Masifundise Board member.
We extend our deepest condolences and sorrow to his family, friends and the fishing community of Langebaan.
Norton was born into a fishing family in Langebaan in 1955. For the majority of his life he worked as a fisherman. He worked on the coasts of South Africa, but also Namibia and Mozambique. After a severe injury later in his life, Norton could no longer actively fish on sea. However, from 2000 he became largely involved in fighting for small-scale fisher rights. He became an activist in the sector and was involved in mobilisation and meetings with relevant departments representing small-scale fishers. He was also one of the many fishers who contributed to drafting up the Small-scale Fisheries Policy (2012).
Up until his last days, Norton was continuously involved in advocacy work in the small-scale fisheries sector.
“Every movement has a slogan. NO FISH, NO EAT was Norton Dowries slogan for the Coastal Links movement. He owned it proudly and we often used it in our work. Norton’s contribution to the plight of the SSF sector is legendary. He was an international figure and socialite who was well-known and loved by all who met him. The news of his passing came as a shock to his local community, and the global fishing community. Norton will be remembered for his faithful, unwavering commitment to the struggle of small-scale fisheries. His support for the work of Masifundise and Coastal Links was exemplary. We already miss his wit, humour and mischievousness. Long live the leadership of Norton Dowries, long live!” said Michelle Joshua from Masifundise.
A memorial service for Norton was held on 18th May in Langebaan. Fisherfolk (who are also fellow comrades of Norton) from Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and inland fishing communities of Jozini, Gariep and Vanderkloof attended. The delegates were in the Western Cape attending Masifundise’s Small-scale Fishers National Strategic Forum (NSF).
On the last day of the annual NSF, an olive tree was planted at the Goedgedacht Farm in memory of Norton, a place he was eager to visit. The olive tree, will grow and bear fruit for many years, just as Norton’s legacy will live on forever.
Norton was laid to rest on Saturday, 20 May 2023 in Langebaan.
Rest in power Norton, your work and dedication to small-scale fisheries in South Africa will live on forever.