Regulations allowing communities access to marine resources in parts of the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area will be effective as from the December 1, 2015. This was revealed in a letter from the Department of Environmental Affairs in response to an earlier memorandum from Hobeni fishing communities.
The MPA is currently a no-take zone.
However, the fishers will have to apply for permits. “Fishing in these areas will require permits issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998,” the letter said.
Mr Vuyisani Jozana of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in the Eastern Cape said that DAFF and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) will meet on 2 November to discuss the issue of permits.
“I cannot tell you what the meeting’s resolutions will be regarding when permits will be issued as we will only discuss the way forward then,” he commented.
The DEA’s letter did not meet all the demands of the fishers. The DEA said that grievances related to Access of forest resources should be addressed to DAFF and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency as Dwesa-Cwebe is a provincial nature reserve.
Hobeni fishers had given the department of Environmental Affairs 14 days to respond to their request to grant them access to parts of the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area. The fishers have been involved in a long battle for access, a matter which has been taken to court.
Recently the fishers threatened to enter the reserve if the matter of access was not resolved speedily. This decision was made on October 1 at a mass rally in Hobeni, where leaders from seven villages and the provincial chairperson of Coastal Links SA addressed the community.
The mass rally decided that if the government did not respond to their request by 23 October, the communities would embark on mass action and simply just enter the reserve and exercise their rights to livelihoods.
The seven villages of Cwebe, Hobeni, Mendwane, Qatywa, Ngoma, Ntubeni and Mpume surrounding the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, were fed up with the government for continually postponing their court case in which they are attempting to have their right to a decent livelihood restored.