4 February 2015

Ministers Bomo Edna Molewa and Senzeni Zokwana to answer communities of Dwesa-Cwebe

The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Fisheries are expected to submit responding affidavits in the Mthatha High Court in a landmark case over customary fishing rights and access to marine resources.

Small-scale fisher communities from Dwesa-Cwebe, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, are asking the court to recognise their customary rights to access the marine resource inside the Dwesa-Cwebe MPA and thus allow them partial access to the Marine Protected Area.

The fisher communities have asked the court to set aside the decision taken in terms of the MLRA to make Dwesa-Cwebe a no-take MPA from 2000.

The Ministers are to reply to all affidavits, filed since 17 December 2013 until 16 January 2015 by LRC Attorney Wilmien Wicomb on behalf of the Dwesa-Cwebe communities.

Since 2013, LRC on behalf of the fishing communities have filled several affidavits to the court requesting a review of the decisions taken by the ministers. To date the departments have failed to respond to the communities’ repeated request for access to marine resources in terms of the Settlement Agreement which they signed in 2000.

The restrictions, together with forced removals during and before apartheid, have systematically eroded the rights of the small-scale fishers to earn a decent living and have denied them their customary rights.

Masifundise and Coastal Links South Africa support the concept of Marine Protected Areas in so far as they protect marine resources but insist on environmental sustainability and livelihood protection being given equal status.

“As Masifundise, we have always maintained that MPA’s should help and not harm communities. Any programme that has an aim to protect nature must and should put people first – to see fishing communities displaced and deliberately excluded from their traditional fishing ground is an injustice,” says Nico Waldeck, Masifundise’s Field Worker in the Western Cape.

From fishers from Langebaan in the Western Cape to St Lucia in KZN face the dampening effect of natural resources being closed off in the name of “conserving” nature.   Fishers who have used marine and other natural resources for decades have seen their customary rights taken away from.

“Fishers can no longer go to fishing grounds freely without being harassed by officials” said Mr. Ponono, EC Masifundises Field Worker, “ Nor do they benefit from “tourist” activities that happen within these MPA’s, they are just excluded,” he continued.

WFFP represented at UN discussions on the rights of peasants

“The natural commons should not be allowed to become hostage to market greed and predatory states” – Muhammed Ali Shah, WFFP

A United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas is coming under the spotlight this week at a working group of the Human Rights Council. The gathering is take place in Geneva.

The World Forum of Fisher Peoples, of which Masifundise is a member, is represented at the meeting by Muhammad Ali Shah, a co-chair of the WFFP. Mr Shah, who is also the chairperson of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, is lobbying for greater integration of fisher peoples in the declaration.

In his opening remarks during last year’s discussions held in Geneva, while delivering the WFFP’s statement on the declaration, Mr Ali Shah asked the working group of the Human rights Council to reject the commodification of nature.

“Land grabs were the start of market-led colonisation; now it’s the turn of water, including oceans. The natural commons, on which depend livelihoods of tens of millions, should not be allowed to become hostage to market greed and predatory states,” he asserted.

The working group established by the Human Rights Council is a response to demands from social movements for better protection of the human rights of peasants, fisher peoples, pastoralists and other groups from all over the world.

All UN Member and Observer States, inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations with ECOSOC consultative status as well as national human rights institutions with “A” status may attend public meetings of the working group.

This year, the working group sessions are taking place from 2-6 February 2015.

The mysteries of the Abalone project

Masifundise and Coastal Links have requested to see a report with the findings of the Abalone Experimental Project implemented by the department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.

The project, launched in 2011, aimed to investigate the sustainability of the resource – Abalone- and whether it “could sustain a viable abalone fishery for the small- scale industry”. The project was to last three years and was implemented in the Eastern and Western Cape.

Amongst other things, the abalone project was to determine,

–              Determine the geographical distribution of abalone in the Eastern Cape

–              To determine whether the TAC of abalone could be increased.

–              To gather whether abalone is viable and sustainable to be commercially fished so to give allocations to                            deserving communities,

–              Give training and transfer skills to communities.

About 25 Small-Scale Fishing communities were used in the research and in the Eastern Cape and each community were allocated about 1.5 tons to harvest.

Divers were also appointed on behalf of the communities with the aim to harvest for and also transfer diving skills to fishers.

“We have been doing our own calculations regarding how many tons divers managed to catch in this three year period “commented Mr Ayanda Yekani of Hamburg.

Masifundise has been informed that some communities did not receive any training, and no proper feedback has been given to communities regarding the project.

Small-Scale fishers in Hamburg, Bell and Bordina, Tyolomnqa, Kei Mouth, Mahasana, Qholorha, Ngcizela, Wavecrest, Cebe  to name just a few, have criticised the manner in which the project was conducted.

“We have received about R350 per person for the three year period, but have not been given a breakdown of how this amount came about. I would be happy if this matter would be investigated so that we as fishers can know how the department came to this amount,” continued Mr Yekani.

Meanwhile many questions remain:

What were the findings of the research? When will they be made available? What is the status of the resource and have the small-scale fishing communities that were used in this experiment really benefited from the research at all?

In October 2007 South Africa indefinitely suspended abalone fishing in its waters, and this was to be effective as from February 2008. This suspension affected both small scale and commercial fishers.

The suspension to catch this species was due to factors such as Illegal fishing and increased inward migration of lobster species that destroyed abalone habitat, but in making the decision, the department promised to make a “plan” for those legal fishers affected by the suspension.

By 2010 the suspension was lifted by the department, and the 302 right holders were given back their rights for a period of 4 more years until end of July 2014.

The experimental project was to end in May 2014, months before the Minister announced a one year extension for Perlemoen rights holders to continue catching until the end of July this year.

Representatives meet in Struuisbaai to reflect on fisheries research project

Representatives from Masifundise and Coastal Links last week joined their partners from The Netherlands, Sri Lanka and India to reflect on Re-incorp, an international fisheries research project based in South Africa.

The meeting was held in Struisbaai, Western Cape and the South African delegation consisted of Masifundise Director Naseegh Jaffer, Programme Co-ordinator Mandla Mqamlana, and staffers Nico Waldeck and Michelle Joshua.

The meeting was held to reflect on progress made by Re-Incrop since its inception and to discuss the plans for the remaining 15 months of the project.

Serge Reamakers of Re-Incorp said “We are entering our last year of the project and needed to take stock of what the situation is in South Africa with regards to the small-scale fisheries policy, and in South Asia.”

During a time of reflection, the South African team noted some of the key moments that transpired during the project; these included the signing off on the SSF policy – both through parliament and the NEDLAC processes, The Amendments to the MLRA (Marine Living Resources Act) and launching important Court cases around MPAs which highlighted and brought about the acknowledgement of customary rights.

The South African delegates noted that the prolonging of the implementation of the Small-Scale Fishing policy presented the SSF sector with many challenges they could not have forseen.

Noting the group’s (South African) inability to adequately respond to challenges, the group said that this had changed the terrain in which the policy has to be implemented

“We have learnt some incredible lessons about the current small-scale fishing industry and we have discussed, as a matter of priority, plans to address the current state of fishing communities,” Michelle Joshua .

“The team committed to make the revitalizing of the SSF policy a priority for this last phase of the project and to focus on restoring the principles outlined in the policy” she continued.

The last day of the meeting, saw the group meeting with some traditional line fishers of Struuisbaai.  The fishers relayed their daily plight of having to face the influx of recreational and commercial fishers from other parts of the region coming to catch in their traditional fishing area.

The REINCORPFISH project was initiated three years ago, aimed at contributing to the reincorporation excluded fishers into rights arrangements. Participants include researchers from universities in the four countries.

REINCORPFISH aims to contribute to, review and assess the development of fisheries governance frameworks and institutional arrangements in South Africa and South Asia for the resolution of core fishery conflicts. A key focus will be on facilitating processes to reincorporate the excluded.

Archiving Small-Scale Fisheries

The first interactive global source for small-scale fishing industry by Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) provides information on key characteristics of the sector in various locations around the world.

The Information System on Small-Scale Industry (ISSF) has synthesized knowledge about the small-scale fishing industry’s importance, contributions and potentials of the industry.

On their Website, TBTI says “The tool invites people with information on different facets of small-scale fisheries to contribute data to help enhance overall understanding and global recognition of small-scale fisheries data.”


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