Fishers in Saldanha Bay have opened a case of theft with the local police after a marketer allegedly took their permit and exported 1850kg of crayfish without their permission.

This happened at the beginning of this year, predating the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

West Coast fisherwoman Carmelita Mostert lamented the toxic relationship between fishers and marketers.

“We have never had a good relationship with our marketers because their only interest is profiteer. We have had enough of this exploitation and opened a case of theft with the police.”

Marketers masquerade as middlemen in small-scale fishing communities, enticing fishers with upfront cash deals and contractual agreements that leave fishers in dire straits in the long run.

Over the years, the existing marketing system has become entrenched in small-scale fishing communities, preventing fishers from accessing or creating their own localised market.

Marketers purchase fish directly when the boats dock, closing off income generating post- harvesting processes or value-adding activities for the fishers.

There is no regulatory body to hold the marketers accountable.

Marketers have used the closure of the export market during Covid 19 to further exploit small-scale fishers by flouting original agreements and fluctuating prices to the detriment of the fishers.

The pandemic has exposed the fault lines of the current marketing system. It has highlighted the deep need for localised food markets embedded in the pillars of food sovereignty.