FISHERS from the far reaches of the Western Cape and Cape Town gathered at parliament, at great personal costs to make a statement about their rights as fishing communities to be taken seriously by the government, the state and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
Getting up early in the morning on Friday November 25, fishers boarded taxis and mini-buses from as far as Stilbaai on the South Coast and Doornbaai and Ebenhaeser on the West Coast to show their objection to the way and manner in which DAFF is implementing the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP).
Rhiaan Coetzee a Coastal Links SA member from Ebenhaeser said that he got up early in the morning to take up his seat on the taxi to Parliament in Cape Town.
“We were 15 people who travelled from the North West Coast, not all of us could come as the transport costs are expensive. We paid R4 000 for the taxi to bring us to Cape Town,” said Coetzee.
“Other fishers had to go to sea for the day, but all the fishers in the towns of Doornbaai, Ebenhaeser and Papendorp contributed towards paying for the taxi to take us to Cape Town.”
Coetzee said, besides paying their taxi fares, fishers also sacrificed by not going out to sea on the day, especially considering that there have been so few good fishing days during this year.
“My main reason for protesting on November 25 was that DAFF told me, a fisher since the age of 14 years, that I am not a fisher when they announced the provincial list of small-scale fishers for the Western Cape.”
“This action was very important to show the government the unhappiness amongst fishers about the provisional lists, and to show them that the systems they use are wrong.
“They excluded the youth and women from the policy, whereas the policy is very explicit of including the women and youth in the fishing community.”
We are also unhappy about the long term rights that have been allocated in the net and line fish sectors, leaving almost nothing for the baskets in the small-scale fisheries sector.”
“Crayfish rights have been extended, why, we want to know, and we also want to know what will be in the basket for small-scale fishing, because at the moment it seems as if the basket is empty.”
Carmelita Mostert, chairperson of Coastal Links SA, Saldanha, said they also, together with the CLSA branch in Langebaan filled up a taxi for the protest.
“Fishers had to sacrifice a sea-day in order to come and bring out our protest in support of our rights,” said Mostert.
Another aspect of the day that Mostert found valuable was the fact that many of the fishers from the communities experienced the first time going to Parliament.
“The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had public hearings where the leadership from Masifundise and CLSA made presentations.”
“The fishers, some for their very first time, went to the public hearings and listened to their leaders making presentations to Members of Parliament, DAFF and proposing how to change things.”
“Many fishers also appreciated the fact that the DDG (Deputy Director General) came out of her office to come and listen to demands of the fishers and signed our memorandum, something which is done seldom.”
The day also taught us that if we are united together, that we can achieve positive results, and that when the fishing communities gives us mandates, that we are able to implement it.”
Both Mostert and Coetzee agree that what is needed from now on is a positive feedback from DAFF and the portfolio committee towards the demands of fishing communities to have the SSFP properly implemented and that fishing allocations be done in a proper manner which will include small-scale fishing communities.
Coetzee is especially hopeful for a complete reversal of the provisional lists of bona-fide small-scale fishers that have been released so far in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, and that it will include women, the youth, fishers whose proxy registrations was not accepted, and the thousands of genuine fishers that have been left off the lists so far.