From a time when fisheries was one of the primary user of coastal lands and resources, there is today growing competition for coastal and wetland spaces from, for example, the creation of special economic zones, construction of ports and harbours, industrial aquaculture, including mariculture operations, tourism, real estate development and speculation, mining, and oil and gas exploration, and even conservation-related activities (C, Sharma, 2011).

As a consequence, coastal and inland fishing communities face deteriorating quality of life and the threat of eviction on an ongoing basis. These developments uproot communities from their traditional settlements and occupational spaces and disrupt their access to water bodies, including rivers, estuaries and the sea. Losing land adjacent to fishing grounds for small-scale fishing communities is closely linked to loss of culture, identity, livelihood and dignity (C, Sharma, 2011)

The issue of providing preferential access to traditional fishing grounds was proposed more than ten years ago through the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

FAO recognized the crucial role of small scale artisanal and indigenous fisheries and determined that government should give priority to these fisheries (World of Forum of Fisher Peoples, 2008).

With the ongoing implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries policy and the nearing of communities forming Community Based Legal Entities; the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy proposes that certain areas along the coast may be demarcated as areas prioritised for Small Scale fishers.

Once the fishing community has established a community based legal entity, the community can apply to the Minister to have an area to be designated a Small Scale fishing community area (Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy in South Africa, 2012).

So, what does Preferential Access mean?

The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries says that the important contributions of artisanal and small- scale fisheries to employment, income and food security should be recognised and that states should appropriately protect the rights of fishers and fishworkers.

“Particularly those engaged in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fisheries, to a secure and just livelihood, as well as preferential access, where appropriate, to traditional fishing grounds and resources in the waters under their national jurisdiction.”

Providing preferential access to fishers means that small-scale fishers will not have to compete in their zones with other sectors such as, industrial fishing, aquaculture (commercial) and tourism especially when it is impeding the access of fishers, including pollution degrading the marine and inland aquatic environment and thus progressively destroying the livelihoods of marine and inland fishing communities.

There is also a high possibility that if given preferential access and through zonation for small-scale fisheries, like Sharma stated above, there will be less chances of traditional fishers (including indigenous people) losing their traditional grounds along with their culture, identity, livelihood and dignity.

It also means that small-scale fishers are favoured and the access to resources is protected thus enhancing rural employment and wealth distribution amongst this group/sector.


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