On the 17th of August, the Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) National Executive Committee, representing fishing communities from all four Coastal Provinces, came together with Masifundise Development Trust and Partner Organisations (POs), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and UCT in a National Dialogue, to discuss the status of the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy and the impact of the delays of its implementation on coastal communities.

CLSA, Masifundise and POs re-affirmed their full support for the principles and objectives stated in the Small-Scale Fishery Policy. They affirmed their active participation in the development of the policy and claim full ownership of the vision the SSF policy is based upon. However, CLSA recognizes that DAFF’s regulations that are supposed to guide the implementation of the policy, do not reflect its principles, objectives and vision.

Furthermore, while DAFF affirms that the implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries policy is progressing, frustration is widespread among small-scale fishers along the South African coastline. This year marks the 10 years anniversary of the Equality Court Ruling that in 2007 recognized SSF rights and determined that a policy to recognize their human rights had to be developed. After actively contributing in writing the policy, fishing communities have been waiting for the government to implement it for more than 5 years.

The participants in the National Dialogue recognized the necessity of developing a new strategy that seeks to enhance livelihoods opportunities, in line with the principles of Food Sovereignty and the fight for fishing rights and sustainable livelihoods. The new approach finds its base in the acknowledgement that actions and strategies used until now to fight for fishers’ human rights have exhausted their potential, due to the changing political environment in South Africa. 

CLSA, Masifundise and partners supporting the rights of small-scale fishers find themselves at a crossroad. If the decision is to accept that policy implementation and rights allocation is happening, it will take years before fishers see their rights and sustainable livelihoods fulfilled. Alternatively, CLSA, with the support of Masifundise and POs, could actively start implementing the SSF policy for which they fought in the past 20 years, with communities actively exploring and enjoying different livelihood opportunities. The second option has been agreed upon.

While this conversation was started in the National Dialogue, in the next weeks it will be taken to the provincial level, during the CLSA Provincial Executive Committees’ meetings. In these occasions, plans of actions will be developed by CLSA local leaders, with the support of Masifundise staff. These plans will reflect and act upon the different local realities and needs, developing on the principles of Food Sovereignty.

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