Small-scale fishing communities feel that they are not being kept informed by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), when it come to the implementation of the small scale fisheries (SSF) policy, and that fishing communities are uncertain of whether another Interim Relief System will be implemented for the coming year, or whether the SSF policy will be implemented.

Florina Albertyn, a small scale fisher in Hawston, and an NEC member of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) says that everything is quiet since the department wrapped up their interaction around the verification and registration of fishers in Hawston.

Albertyn said that she is unhappy with the process that unfolded. “At the beginning of the process, people’s names were put forward to serve on the verification panel, and I was nominated, and it was reported that I got the most votes to serve on the panel”.

In their introduction, the department the department explained that they wanted one woman and four men to serve on the verification panel, Albertyn explained.

She however discovered that another woman, who got less votes than her were given the seat on the verification panel, just because she has been on interim relief for the past nine years.

“The panel sat one month after the registration period, when the department came out to register the last fishers who did not get a chance to register when they were here the first time,” said Albertyn.

After that the Hawston community did not hear a thing from the department about what the next step in the SSF policy implementation is.

Albertyn also feels upset about the fact that there is not a single CLSA member on the verification panel, but that small scale commercial fishers and the owner of a private fishing company served on the panel.

Solene Smith, chairperson of the Langebaan CLSA Branch, said that the situation for the Langebaan fishers is not much different, with a silent DAFF that is not communicating with the fishing community.

“They communicate with us around anything but the SSF policy implementation,” said Smith.

“We want to know how the process is, who qualified, and who did not, but we are kept in the dark by DAFF.”

“DAFF came and they left, but we are still not sure if there will be another Interim Relief, or whether the SSF policy will be implemented.”

Smith said that they are anxious to know whether the process was done right, and whether the fishers have qualified.

Smith said that they had various communications with the department since the registration happened in Langebaan, but nothing was about the SSF policy implementation.

“At one time, they came here and the department officials were arrogant, they told us that the community is ignorant, and that we need to inform ourselves. One member of the community stood up and told them not to be so arrogant and that there is no need to talk to us as if we are children.”

Smith said that the department refuses to give the community answers to the questions that they ask.

On another occasion, Smith said that she was phoned and told that the commercial net-fish permits are going to come out soon, but, as a community, they are not interested in the commercial net-fish permits.

“But, what we want to know is if the department kept any of the net-fish permits for the implementation of the SSF policy.”

Smith said that when they filled in their Expression of Interest forms, their contact numbers were included, but now it seems that DAFF is using that information to communicate about other issues, and not the implementation of the SSF policy.

“They even invited us to attend the launching of the new ship”, said Smith.

Pedro Engelbrecht, CLSA member in Doring Bay says that the department is causing problems for them which they will experience in the future in relation to the SSF policy.

“When the department talks about the SSF policy on public platforms, they always emphasise the empowerment and inclusion of women and youth,” said Engelbrecht.

This however did not happen when they conducted the registration and verification sessions, Engelbrecht said on the contrary they strongly emphasised on criteria that excludes women and youth.

“The ten year experience criteria seriously discourage the youth and women from being part of the SSF policy.”

“On the basis of DAFF policy we encouraged the youth and women to become part of the SSF policy and to register. Now what will happen is that we are now going to be in the firing squad, because most of the women and the youth won’t qualify.”

Engelbrecht feels that the department needs to bring its policies and criteria in line with each other.

“Up to now, since the last time the department was her, we did not get any feedback from the department what the next steps will be.”

“We did everything we were supposed to do to start the process; now two months before the new season starts, we are not certain whether there will be a new Interim Relief, or whether the SSF policy will be implemented.”



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