Fishers’ Champion Kenneth Blaauw dies

Kenneth Blaauw, a traditional fisher and champion of rights for small-scale fishers died at the weekend, from a stomach-related illness. He was 57.

Mr Blaauw came to prominence in 2008 when he was the main respondent in a case fought on behalf of small-scale fishers in the High Court. This followed a court application by Industry who asserted that the Minister of Fisheries had no right to give lobster fishing rights to a sector (artisanal fishers) that did not exist in law. They said only recreational, subsistence and commercial sectors had legal status. Industry cited more than a thousand names of poor fishers who were on Interim Relief at the time. They argued that these fishers were not entitled to receive fishing rights.

Blaauw presented an affidavit in this matter, on behalf of the 1245 small-scale fishers. The High court ruled in favour of Blaauw and the group, stating that the Minister was correct to award the fishing rights.

This was a great victory for the small-scale fishers since they would have been destitute without fishing rights, unable to make a living. Had the decision gone the other way, Industry would have further monopolised resources and very importantly, it would have struck a big blow to the unfolding Small-scale fisheries policy that was finally adopted last year. It would consequently have set back the struggle to have small-scale fishers recognised in law.

The SSF policy marks a dramatic shift from the past, giving the sector legal recognition, moving away from the destructive individual rights to a collective rights model and providing a framework for greater empowerment and equity for small-scale fishing communities.

“Kenneth Blaauw has made a huge contribution to the cause of small-scale fishers countrywide,” said Naseegh Jaffer, Director of Masifundise Development Trust. “We must ensure that his struggle is taken forward until the policy becomes lived reality in the lives of fishers around the coast,” he added.

A member of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA), Mr Blaauw was part of the organisation since its inception in Langebaan in 2004.

“He was a man of not so many words, peaceful and happy and he liked to sing,” said Norton Dowries, a fellow fisherman from Langebaan. “Kenneth, is what you call a true fisherman,” he continued.

Blaauw began fishing when he was in high school, following in the footsteps of his father; he began his journey in fishing as a trek netter. After school, he would go to the beach with other boys and watch as the older men came back from sea.

Blaauw attended Langebaan English Church School and then he went to Schoonspruit High in Malmesbury. He completed Grade 9 before starting life as a fisherman.

Starting off as a trek netter during his teenage years, he also worked as “whaler” in a whailing boat and caught linefish, west coast rock lobster and snoek. He used to travel as far as Laaiplek to catch fish but was always a resident of Langebaan.

Health difficulties did not deter Blaauw from pursuing basic rights for all fishers. Despite his persistent efforts to advance the fishers’ struggle, Blaauw himself was a struggling fisherman at the time of his death and did not get to experience the rights that are pending in terms of the Small-scale fisheries policy.

“The name Kenneth Blaauw should be remembered and noted in the history of South African-Small-Scale Fisheries, “said Masifundise’s Michelle Joshua. “Though almost a decade has passed since Kenneth’s case was won, we are still working towards getting the SSF policy implemented and its intended vision realised. We should continue to lobby that the implementation of the policy benefit the traditional fishers first!! Long live the memory of Kenneth Blaauw,” she added.

“It is sad to hear that yet another fisher passed on without tasting the fruits of their struggle,” commented Nico Waldeck of Masifundise. “As Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa, we need to press harder for the implementation of the SSF policy,” he said.

Mr Blaauw made it possible for South-Africa Small scale fishers to have a policy today. Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa would like to pass their heartfelt condolences to his family and wish that his soul rests in peace.

Masifundise has expressed its sadness at the passing of “a fishers’ champion” who “practised solidarity” in his daily life. “His passing is a great loss to his family, the community of Langebaan and the broader small-scale fisheries community,” said Masifundise. “May his soul rest in peace.”

Mr Blaauw leaves behind his partner, two sons and two daughters. He will be buried in Langebaan on Saturday 18 April from the NG Church at 11am.

SSF Policy on sustaining our marine resources

The Hook continues the series on sections of the Small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy. This week we look at biodiversity and the sustainable use and management of marine resources and ecosystems.

The utilisation of marine resources has a huge impact on the ocean environment. With widespread development of fisheries, it has become the major ecological impact.

Historically, fisheries exploited near-shore and coastal resources, but the expansion of far seas fisheries in the second half of the 20th century led to exploitation in all the world’s oceans (Garcia and Newton, 1994).

Thus it is little wonder that a National Research Council workshop identified “‘fisheries operations'” as the most important anthropogenic effect on marine biodiversity among five major critical environmental issues (NRC, 1995).

A general definition of biodiversity is “the collection of genomes, species, and ecosystems occurring in a geographically defined region” (NRC,1995).

Fisheries impact baseline diversity at each of these levels. At the genetic level, fisheries change population characteristics (e.g., age distribution, reproduction, stock structure), resulting in alterations to the genome.

At the species level, fisheries affect species composition and interactions. Finally, through effects of by-catch, habitat alteration, and altered energy flow, fisheries impact the diversity of marine habitats and the function of ecosystems”(W. Boehlert, 1996).

The sustainable use and management of marine resources and ecosystems is a very important factor in fisheries. If marine resources and ecosystems are not properly managed, they can be over used and exploited. Unlike air, some marine resources are finite resources and thus can be extinct or depleted if not managed properly.

Some of the ways marine resources have been managed is through Total Allowable Catches (TAC), Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and permits. These are processes introduced by government to manage and protect marine resources, thus limiting the possibilities of these resources to be depleted and exploited.

The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy provides a framework of how marine resources should be utilised via the Amended Marine Living Resource Act. The Act thus is a document making sure that resources are managed, protected and used effectively.

The Act has the following objectives and principles:

  • the need to achieve optimum utilisation and ecologically sustainable development of marine living resources;
  • the need to conserve marine living resources for both present and future generations;
  • the need to apply precautionary approaches in respect of the management and development of marine living resources;
  • the need to utilise marine living resources to achieve economic growth, human resource development, capacity building within fisheries and Mari culture branches, employment creation and a sound ecological balance consistent with the development objectives of the national government;
  • the need to protect the ecosystem as a whole, including species which are not targeted for exploitation;
  • the need to preserve marine biodiversity;
  • the need to minimise marine pollution;

As the Small-Scale fisheries policy aims to contribute to food security, social economic development and poverty alleviation to small-scale fishing communities, it is thus important that the resources in which these communities depend on are managed, protected and nurtured.

Chilean National Fisheries in State of Collapse

By The Fish Site

CHILE – Eight of Chile’s national fisheries have been declared in a state of collapse and a further eight of overexploitation, according to a new report.

The report ‘Current Status of Major Chilean Fisheries’ reported that eight fisheries are depleted, eight in a state of overexploitation and 22 in a state of full exploitation. Read the article here 


The Changing Face of Small-Scale Fisheries Pricing

By WWF Visblik

For many years small scale fishers have been disadvantaged by the pricing system in the fisheries sector because they have no bargaining power in the market to influence it and are therefore forced to be “price takers” for their hard earned fish harvest. Adding insult to injury has been the policy uncertainty and the slow rollout of the policy .Compounding this predicament is the proliferation of the langanas and other middle man who promise secured markets for the catches. But at what cost?

It is a known fact that despite the hype about the new small scale fisheries policy, many fishers specifically the interim relief permit (IRP) holders remain trapped in the “Voorskot” system which is dubbed as the “dop system” of the fisheries sector. The “dop system” is a system that was prevalent in the wine farms under apartheid whereby farm workers were paid with wine in return for their hard work.

Similarly, in the “Voorskot” system fishers are forced by circumstances to make loans with the marketers or buyers in return for their harvest. The problem is when this arrangement obliges the fishers to sell to the loaning buyer for the consecutive seasons at either a low or for an unspecified price.

Surely, even in a free market system like South Africa, any arrangement that forces the already disadvantaged fishers to be “price takers” for their hard work deserves some interrogation. And perhaps, the advent of the new small scale fisheries policy and the proposed cooperative arrangements should offer alternative approaches to root out any such exploitive systems, so long as they do not offer any equitable benefits to the impoverished fisher folk. ( Die Visblik, 2015)


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