The Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, attended part of the small-scale fishing National Strategic Forum (NSF) that was hosted over five days by Masifundise and attended by more than 100 fishers.

This gave small-scale fishing communities from the four provinces an opportunity to engage directly with the minister to discuss key issues pertaining to small-scale fisheries recognition and development.  

The NSF, which took place from 12-16 April, brought together inland and coastal fishing communities from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and the Northern Cape.

The NSF looked to empower members of small-scale fishing communities to explore, analyse and develop a shared understanding of the current political, socio-economic and key emerging issues that affect these communities. The NSF included workshops and inputs on co-management and the increasing rise in extractive activities on coastal shores. This forum highlighted the need for strengthening participatory governance at all levels, enabling fishing communities to secure their social, economic, and political rights and to demand the redistribution of access to natural resources and the roll-back of harmful development initiatives.

More than 100 fishers attended the forum. About 30 to 40 met physically in each province, observing strict Covid-19 protocols. The provincial gatherings connected online together with officials from the national office.

Many fishing communities highlighted the exclusion of fishers from cooperative and fishing rights lists. “We have a number of our brothers and sisters who have been left out. They have not been able to secure their livelihoods, their families are hungry, explained Khetshemiya, a fisher from Centane.

In response the minister committed to allow for the inclusion of excluded small-scale fishers. “As a ministry we have heard the cries of fishers all along the coast. Next year in the Eastern Cape and KwazuluNatal, we will allow fishing communities to add excluded fishers to their cooperatives.  For the Northern Cape that process will happen this year, “said Creecy.

Inland fishing communities in Jozini, Vanderkloof and Gariep spoke of their continued criminalisation due to lack of an inland policy. Chief Director of Aquaculture Economic Development, Belemane Semoli ensured inland fishers that local authorities had been cautioned against the harassing of inland fishers.