The primary objective of the Small Scale Fisheries (SSF) policy is to introduce certain fundamental shifts in Government’s approach to the Small Scale fisheries sector. (Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa, 2012).

The hook has been constantly highlighting Key policy objectives as outlined in the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy. This week we take a look at the promotion of equity and preferential access for small-scale fishers to critical infrastructure and amenities such as land and at landing site.

Promoting equity and preferential access to amenities and infrastructure such as land, landing sites, storage facilities, boats and training for small-scale fishers is one such fundamental shift in government’s approach towards the small-scale fisheries sector.

The small-scale fisheries policy proposes that certain areas on the coast be prioritised and demarcated as small-scale fishing areas. In some areas access rights could be reserved exclusively for use by small-scale fishers (SSF policy A handbook for fishing communities in South Africa, 2013).

This could be because you would find in many cases that areas where SSF catch their fish are taken over by large vessels, recreational and holiday fishers. This results in SSF having to lose out on their catches for the day or competing with holiday makers for space- like in the case of Langebaan.

SSF need to be empowered, besides having preferential access to coastal areas and land, there should be infrastructure; infrastructure that will enable ssf communities to manage their fisheries well.

A community based legal entity or a cooperative is one critical infrastructure that will empower and improve the lives of small-scale fishing communities.

While for historical reasons the term ‘cooperatives’ can have a negative connotation, it is generally accepted that cooperatives could improve the resilience and stability of fishing communities(FAO, 2009).

The Food and Agriculture organisation paper titled Co-operatives in Small-scale Fisheries: enabling success through community empowerment says that “Cooperatives in the small-scale fisheries sector are a way of maximizing long-term community benefits to deal with the threats of fisheries mismanagement, livelihood insecurity and poverty.

Cooperatives can increase fishers’ price negotiating power with market intermediaries, help stabilize markets, improve postharvest practices and facilities, provide marketing logistics and information, and facilitate investment in shared structures such as ice plants and fish processing facilities.”

The promotion of equity is also a valuable exercise. It will make sure that all those involved (including, those in post harvesting and other activities such as bait preparation, cleaning, processing and marketing)  in small-scale fishing receive and access rights.

States should ensure that adequate policies and legislation are in place for achieving gender equity and equality.

States should be at the forefront of implementing actions for improving gender equity and equality by, inter alia, recruiting both men and women as extension staff, offering staff training in gender-sensitive fisheries technologies and issues, and ensuring that both men and women have access to extension and technical services related to fisheries (International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries, 2012)

At the same time, differences between women and men should be acknowledged and specific measures taken to accelerate de facto equality, i.e. using preferential treatment where required to achieve equitable outcomes, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups (Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, 2013).