Study being undertaken in Kleinmond District

Research into the economic value of small-scale fishing in the Kleinmond District has revealed that fishers, particularly those with Interim Relief, generate only a meagre income each month.

However, the fishers had few other options to secure sustainable livelihoods, so fishing becomes an essential means of survival. The research programme is ongoing.

The aim of the research is to assess the economic value of small-scale fishing in the region. The study focuses on the small-scale fishers in Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay and includes both inshore commercial fishers and those fishing on interim relief permits (IRP).

The study is funded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and undertaken by Tia Jordan, Kevern Cochrane and Warwick Sauer from the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University.

The information available indicates that there are 94 registered near-shore commercial rights holders (NSCR) for rock lobster, 61 people holding IRPs and only two holders of traditional line-fish permits based in these three centres.

The main species caught are the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL), Snoek, Cape bream and Geelbek. White mussel is also included in the IRP allocation and some permit holders harvest this species as well.

“We have found that Lobster is the most important of these species economically. For the 2014/2015 season the NSCR permit holders in the area had quotas varying from 322 to 482kgs and the IRP holders had allowances of 110.4kgs per person,” said Professor Kevern Cochrane.

According to a preliminary report compiled by the researchers, the prices fishers received for their catches ranged from about R180 to R270 per kg depending on which buyer they are dealing with and the arrangements they have with that buyer, as well the current prices in the international market.

“Our provisional estimates are that the total gross value of the catches for the whole area for this season is in the range of approximately R9 million to R12 million. The average annual gross income of individual IRP fishers is about R24 000 and for NSCR holders about R93 000 (but varying according to the quota held)” commented Cochrane.

By contrast, prices for line-fish and mussels are much lower, anywhere between about R10 and R55 per kg depending on the species and the buyer. In addition catches are very variable and unpredictable from year to year.

“These factors make it difficult to estimate the total gross value but it is thought to have been less than R1 million for the area as a whole last year. The low prices, variability in availability and the costs of fishing mean that line-fishing has high economic risks and we were told by some fishers that many IRP holders do not fish for their line-fish allowances or that they fish mainly for their own consumption,” the report stated.

Cochrane, Jordan and Sauer estimate that on average, an IRP holder earns about R7 000 per year from line-fish.

“Of course, the value of the catch is only part of the story and the fishers have to deduct their costs from the payments they receive. Those costs include all the running costs of a fishing boat for those fortunate enough to own their own boat, or commissions to the boat owner for those who don’t,” they said.

Commissions range from about R50 per kg when fishing for rock lobster to 50% of the value of the catch when fishing for line-fish.

“We see that Fishing is therefore not a lucrative business and provides only a meagre income for IRP fishers in particular. Nevertheless, for all those involved, it is essential for their livelihoods and provides a vital source of income in a region with high unemployment and few alternative opportunities,” they continued.

According to Cochrane, Jordan and Sauer, the challenge is to identify ways in which to improve the returns from fishing without adding to the pressures on fish stocks, most of which, and particularly WCRL, are already under pressure.

In their preliminary report the three researchers further recommended solutions that have arisen from the study and this included the recovery of WCRL, management of the line-fish fishery and how the implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) could address problems faced by fishers in the area.

“The recently adopted SSFP in South Africa is intended to ensure that small-scale fishing communities have improved access to marine living resources and obtain maximum benefits from those resources allocated to them. As such, implementation of the policy could help to address the above problems, improving the quality of life for fishers and fishing communities in the area.

However, for this to happen, the implementation needs to be carefully planned and executed. Quotas need to be within sustainable limits and must be economically viable, while the rights holders must be given support to ensure that they have the opportunity and capacity to maximise the benefits from the quotas they receive,” said the researchers.

“Without careful planning, based upon solid information on the biological, economic and social consequences of different options, there is a risk that implementation could make the lives of small-scale fishers even harder than it is at present,” they continued.

*This is an ongoing study and this article is based on a preliminary report based on the 2014/2015 season.



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