Earlier this month, members of Coastal Links in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) gathered in Richards Bay for four days to discuss the state of small-scale fishing in the province.

Much of the discussion was around the meeting with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) over the Ocean Economy Master Plan (OEMP). The fishers have rejected the OEMP.

While many communities have been recognised as small-scale fishing communities and co-operatives have been set up, most of them are not functioning and only have paper rights.

Mining is also a growing concern for fishers in the area of Richards Bay, where RBM operations are impacting the access to fishing grounds and water resources.

On the 13 October, Coastal Links KZN together with Masifundise met with DFFE to discuss the public consultation on the development of the Ocean Economy Masterplan process (OEMP). The department undertook a roadshow in the province to present the Ocean Economy Masterplan and receive input from fishing communities.

The Masterplan process, which is an extension of Operation Phakisa, was rejected by small-scale fisher representatives in the meeting. The reason being that, while DFFE invests time and resources in developing a plan for the Ocean Economy, small-scale fishing communities are left on their own and are not given the necessary support to make the SSF Policy a reality on the ground and contribute to local livelihoods and development.

The department officials acknowledged the concerns from small-scale fishers and agreed that much more needs to be done to implement the SSF Policy, before prioritising the Masterplan.

Masifundise and Coastal Links KZN expect swift action to follow from DFFE and hope that it did not fall on deaf ears.