Small–scale fishers in the Western Cape are up in arms over many issues affecting the sector in the Western Cape and nationally, especially the recently published provisional list of bona-fide fishers in the Western Cape, released by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on the 21 October.
Fisher leaders of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA), representing fishers from the West Coast, South Coast and Cape Metro, convened in Laaiplek from October 25 -27 for a two day CLSA Western Cape Provincial Meeting and Workshop, to look at where the SSF Policy Implementation process is and how it is going, and to better understand what skills are required to manage the SSF co- operatives to whom the Minister will issue the SSF right.
It was hard for them to stick to the agenda as their minds were focused on the provisional list published by DAFF on October 21, which excluded the vast majority of fishers in coastal towns around the Western Cape. A lot of time was spent on the process and the importance of appealing and remaining in the process. Once the programme was concluded, the fishers used all their free time to vent their anger and to make rational decisions on the way forward.
“Women, youth and the disabled were not considered. Many veteran fishers, many with more than 30 years of experience in fishing have been excluded,” was the common words uttered by many of the leaders present.
Fishers were encouraged to advise those excluded from the list to APPEAL so that they remain in the process.
The group unanimously decided that it would be better to stay within the process, and if the appeal outcomes are still unsatisfactory, that fishers will then have a leg to stand on should they take any steps after the appeals have been completed, through the courts or otherwise.
Fisher leaders were also unhappy about other issues, especially the diminishing basket of marine resources that will be available for the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy, in the light of the rights allocations that has already been made to the commercial sector under the 2016 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP 2016).
As part of the discussion on the diminishing basket of marine resources to be allocated to fishing communities, the fishers were unanimous in deciding that the minister be engaged and asked to revoke the allocations already made under FRAP 2016 and that the West Coast Rock Lobster allocations that still has to be made, should be suspended.
All allocations should be made at the same time as the small-scale fishing baskets are allocated, to prevent a situation where the small-scale fisheries sector is only allocated the left-overs after allocations have been made to the commercial sector.
Fisher leaders also expressed concern that the provisional list exposes long-standing fishers with more than 30 years of fishing experience to a humiliating process of appealing and proving that they are in actual fact fishers.
“Fishers with over 30 years fishing experience and who have been on Interim Relief for 11 years must now humiliate themselves and go and look for papers and documents to prove their status as fishers, when DAFF have their information on record in their offices,” is how Carmelita Mostert, fisher delegate from Saldanha Bay felt about the list.
CLSA leaders raised concerns around Government Gazette Notice No40286 of 16 September 2016, which seeks to limit the fishing rights of small-scale fishing communities to three years, and they re-iterated that fishing rights for the small-scale fisheries sector have been ordered so by the Equality Court of South Africa as an everlasting right, and cannot be limited by DAFF.
They demanded an immediate withdrawal of GG #40286 and that small scale fisheries rights should be recognised as customary practice and therefore no duration could be coupled to the practice of their custom.
Sessions were held on co-operatives and the skills required by members to be able to help with their implementation and functioning. Rights will be allocated to co-operatives, which is favoured by government as the type of legal entity to be used.