In November 2022, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)’s inland team announced that they would finalise the implementation plan for the Inland Policy by March 2023.
This comes after the National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy was published for implementation in February 2022.
As part of the consultative process, the DFFE opened up comment submissions from relevant stakeholders in the inland fisheries sector on the draft Implementation Plan.
In February, inland small-scale fishers from Luckhoff, Norvalspont, Venterstad and Jozini came together in their respective communities to draft and submit comments on the inland policy implementation plan.
Although both inland fishing communities and Masifundise welcome the steps taken by the department towards a draft implementation plan for the Policy, some concerns around the plan include the length of time towards legalised and authorised access for fishers to their traditional fishing grounds.
The plan indicates that inland fishers will only be allocated access rights by March 2027. This time period is particularly concerning since there has been no mention of provisional measures to ensure access to traditional fishing grounds while these processes are underway.
It is imperative that provisional measures are put in place to ensure that small-scale fishers can access traditional fishing grounds and freshwater resources in order to secure their livelihoods, put food on the table, and develop the local economies in their communities.
Some recommendations for the implementation plan would be the adequate participation of small-scale fishers in decision-making and the recognition of their traditional knowledge, securing the safety of fishers and lastly, gender equity and equality and inclusion of youth in the sector.
Despite the vital role that inland fishers play as food producers, the inland fisheries sector has operated without a legislative framework for many years. As a result, inland fishers have fished informally or used recreational fishing permits, the only permit option that currently exists for them. In addition, they are vulnerable to criminalisation and harassment by local authorities.
“We hope that the adoption of the inland policy will facilitate the establishment of developmental fisheries governance institutions, support the growth of inland fisheries value chains, manage a sustainable inland fishing sector and address issues of equity and transformation of the sector,” said Maia Nangle from Masifundise.