This week saw some movement towards the implementation of the small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy with a training workshop in Kwazulu Natal and a meeting between a senior DAFF delegation with members of Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa.
At the workshop in KZN, participants were told that the (SSF) policy could be implemented by June next year.
The workshop, held on 16 and 17 February, was organised to assist fishers prepare for the implementation of the SSF policy. It aimed to unpack and explain the roll-out plan for the implementation process. The workshop was hosted by Ezemvelo, the KZN wildlife conservation body.
Attended by fishers, scientists and fisher organisations, the group was informed that fishers can expect to receive their rights by June 2016. An identification and verification process will be in place and communities co-operative will need to be established.
Masifundise was represented by Sithembiso Gwaza and Lindani Ngubeni and a number of Coastal Links SA members were in attendance.
“The fishers will need to prepare for the implementation of the policy and be part of the identification and verification process so that they are not left out,” said Lindani Ngubane, Masifundise’s Field Worker in KZN.
“We have to make sure that we are on the ground and we are keeping our fishers informed,” continued Lindani.
On Wednesday 19 February, the DAFF Deputy Director Mortimer Manye led a delegation of officials who had come to discuss the policy implementation roll-out plan with Masifundise and Coastal Links representatives.
The Director of Masifundise, Naseegh Jaffer, believed this was a positive step and said he hoped that there would be no further obstacles in a process that began more than a decade ago when the Equality Court ordered the formulation of the SSF policy.
The meeting and the workshop in KZN signalled that there was some momentum building with the implementation process. It is clear that a number of hurdles would have to be crossed that include dealing with sectarian interests and the lack of capacity, both from the State and fishing communities.
The first step, it appears, is to get the draft regulation for the SSF policy debated and amended until it is broadly accepted.
The department will make the draft regulations for the policy available for public comment and are planning for these regulations to be promulgated by 4 May this year.
Other elements will include the appointment of service providers, the identification of small-scale fishers, the setting up of legal entities and the implementation of development programmes.
“ We are pleased that this process is moving forward,” said Christiaan Adams, Chairperson of CLSA “ Fishers have been waiting for years and they are not willing to wait for another year, this is the time that we legitimise small-scale fishers” he continued.
Small-Scale Fisheries Policy
In 2005 when the government adopted long-term fishing policies that made no provision for small-scale fishers. Masifundise, Coastal Links, the Artisanal Fishers Association of South Africa and the Legal Resources Centre took the matter to the Equality High Court.
The court ordered the government to develop a policy that includes small-scale fishers and that an interim relief package is extended while this was being done. Masifundise and Coastal Links engaged in wide-ranging advocacy initiatives during this period and afterwards. In 2012, the policy was finally adopted by national Cabinet. The majority of its contents had been proposed by Masifundise, Coastal Links and partners. For the policy to be implemented, the Marine Living Resources Act had to be amended. This process was concluded in May 2014.
Benefits of the new policy include the following:
- The formal, legal recognition of artisanal fishing communities, for the first time.
- A move to collective fishing rights, away from the individual quota system that excluded the majority.
- The demarcation of exclusive fishing zones for small scale fishers, where they will be able to harvest or catch anything throughout the year. The potential for ongoing sustainable income will be considerably enhanced. These zones will be out of bounds for big commercial fishing companies.
- Clear benefits for women, in fishing communities, from both fishing and value chain involvement.
- Women will be able to actively take part in fishing activities and participate in the management and regulatory systems at local and national level.
- Improved marine resource co-management.
The implementation process could only happen once the Marine Living Resources Act was amended. This process was complete in May 2014.