By Christian Adams
The National Executive Committee of Coastal Links South Africa, representing over 4 000 small-scale fishers along the country’s coast line, met last week in Langebaan to consider key issues affecting the sector.
They reflected on the developments around the commercial line fish permit allocations, which have been widely covered by the media. While there are a few small-scale fishers who did receive a commercial line fish permit in the past and did not receive one now, we are of the understanding that they will be covered in terms of the Small-scale Fishing policy.
The last allocation took place in 2005 and excluded small-scale fishers. This was found to be discriminatory by the Equality Court two years later. The court ordered that a new policy be formulated and that the MLRA be amended to make its implementation possible. CLSA, Masifundise and other partners had launched the court action and small scale fishers were given an interim relief package.
In 2012, after many years of interim relief exemptions, the new Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy was adopted by the national Cabinet, but for the policy to be implemented the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) had to be amended. In 2013 the amended MLRA was adopted in the National Assembly and now it awaits the approval of the National Council of Provinces.
In order for the National Council of Provinces to approve and support the amendments to the MLRA, all four coastal provinces ( Kwazulu Natal, Western, Eastern and Northern Cape) have to support the amendments, and then the President can sign the Act and the Act can be put into work through the Small-scale Fisheries policy.
Currently three of the four coastal provinces –KZN, Eastern and Northern Cape – have supported the amendments to the MLRA. Only the Western Cape provincial government has not taken a decision.
The longer the Western Cape Provincial Government stalls on this decision, the longer everybody suffers.
The policy, for the first time, will give legal recognition to small-scale fishers.
The approval of the MLRA amendments must be finalised quickly to allow for the implementation of the Small-scale fishing policy. While the old system is still in place, small-scale fishers continue to be exploited, victimised and criminalised.
Currently CLSA is supporting two small-scale fishers in KZN who have unjustly been arrested by officials from DAFF for selling the meagre catch they had in order to put food on the tables of their families.
The only crime these fishers committed was the selling of their catch. With the subsistence permit that KZN have, fishers from these areas are not allowed to sell their catch. Yet, in the Western and Northern Cape fishers are allowed to sell their catches.
This is the blatant discrimination that is evident in our country. In one province you are allowed to sell your fish and provide for your family and in the other you are arrested if you want to do the exact same thing your fellow fishers are doing in the other two coastal provinces.
This discrimination must stop now
We demand that all allocations be put on hold until the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy is finalised and implemented. We demand that the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces be allowed exemptions to sell their catch until the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy.
Christian Adams is a traditional small-scale fisherman and the Chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa, a community-based organisation representing more than 5,000 small-scale fishers in all four coastal provinces of South Africa.