A lifetime of fishing

NTSINDISO Nongcavu, the Eastern Cape provincial chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa, started fishing at the age of eight, accompanying his father and helping to sell their catch afterwards.

Ntsindiso hails from Sicembeni, a small community in Port St Johns in the northern part of the Eastern Cape.

Here he started his life, where he attended primary and high school, completing Standard Nine in 2 000.

Ntsindiso is 36 years old, is married with two children, he has eight brother and two sisters, and his parents are still living.

His whole family is dependent on the fishing resource to make a living, and Ntsindiso says this makes it difficult for them to survive, as the laws are strict, and do not allow fishing communities to gain food sovereignty.

“We catch our fish from the shore with a fishing rod, we do not go out into the sea with a boat to catch fish,” says Ntsindiso.

Fishing with boats is mainly done by the recreational fishers, and you need to have a licence for that, which Ntsindiso says many in his community cannot get.

“The launch sites for the boats are now within many of the estuaries in and around Port St Johns, and many recreational fishers are now also not fishing anymore.”

They have been banned, he says, by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

Ntsindiso says that he would like for people in his community to own boats to use to catch fish.

They should also be trained in how to use the boats, and that proper launch sites should be built from which small-scale fishers can launch to go out into the sea.

Now the people from Sicembeni are regarded as small-scale fishers and they are limited with regard to how many fish they can take out of the sea every day.

This Ntsindiso would also like to see changed as it keeps his community in perpetual poverty.

A slight change came about recently, as the subsistence permit is allowed to be operated under the Interim Relief permit.

What this allows them to do is to sell their fish now to one single buyer, who will pay them for the fish that they have caught.

Under the subsistence fishing, Ntsindiso says that he is only allowed to harvest one cob, eight cray-fish, one garnick, five yellow tails, three breams, three Garricks, three rockets, three black tails and four sheds every day.

Should he catch all these fish in one day, he is supposed to consume it. He is not allowed to sell it to some-one else, or to keep it for the next day, according to Ntsindiso.

“We are not allowed to keep any fish in our freezers or fridges. If the inspectors come around and find fish in your fridges, they can fine you.”

With the Interim Relief for Subsistence Fishers, the small-scale fishers of Sicembeni can now sell their catch to one buyer, and in most cases, it is only the crayfish.

Ntsindiso catches line fish from the shore on the Port St Johns beaches, mussels they also dug up on the shore, but for the crayfish, they lay traps between the rocks on the beaches.

“We do not venture out into the sea, where we can catch more fish and crayfish. We do not have boats, and our permits do not allow us to go more than 20 km into the sea.”

“Between 31 October and 1 March the crayfish season is closed. The best part of the fishing season is between June and October, when there are many cobs around.  Other species are available all year round”.

These fish they are not allowed to sell, but many people do sell it, as it is the only means for them to make a living.

Ntsindiso says that he met representatives of Masifundise and Coastal Links in Port Elizabeth in 2002, and decided to join Coastal Links in 2006.

He was elected to the Task Team that worked towards establishing Coastal Links branches in the Eastern Cape.

Ntsindiso is the provincial chairperson of Coastal Links in the Eastern Cape and serves as an Additional Member on the National Executive Committee of Coastal Links.

“In the Eastern Cape we have 58 branches and all coastal villages in the Eastern Cape are part of Coastal Links.”

Ntsindiso wants to see the Small Scale Fisheries Policy implemented as soon as possible.

“We want access to the sea and its resources, and we want to go to market. We want to see the end of the subsistence fishing policy, it is killing us.”

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