On 8th September, small-scale fishers from Arniston had their homes raided by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other local authority agencies. This raid came after the local fisherfolk failed to fit their boats and vessels with a Department mandated Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS).
The VMS introduced by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) was designed to increase and improve Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) of fishing vessels in order to combat illegal fishing.
However, the VMS has become a structural barrier to fishers accessing their fishing grounds and securing their livelihoods. The cost of renewing these systems has crippled fishers and forced them to enter their traditional fishing territories without them.
“We cannot afford fancy and expensive vessel monitoring systems as small-scale fishers. We are not criminals, we are simply trying to put food on the table. It’s not right that we are labelled as illegal fishers or poachers just because we cannot afford VMS. We have a recognised fishing right, is that not enough to allow us to fish?” said fisherwoman Rovina Europa from Arniston.
DFFE has failed to support and subsidise these monitoring systems for small-scale fishers and this has resulted in the criminalisation of the small-scale fishing community in Arniston.
Masifundise calls on all local and national authorities to support the small-scale fishing sector in finding a viable solution for Arniston’s small-scale fishers in order for them to secure their livelihood activities without criminalisation and harassment.