Last November, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) awarded small-scale fishing (SSF) cooperatives in the Western Cape rights as the fishing season began, completing SSF rights allocation across all coastal provinces.

However, the same month saw DFFE announcing a reduction in West Coast Rock lobster (WCRL) allocation to the SSF sector. This reduction particularly impacts small-scale fishers in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, for whom WCRL is a major source of income. These cuts directly affect SSF’s annual income, making it more challenging for them to meet basic needs.

Additionally, small-scale fishers expressed dissatisfaction with the projected  traditional line fish allocation made by the department, which falls short of promises made by Minister Barbara Creecy and the DFFE to allocate 50% of the nearshore allocation of traditional line fish to the sector.

In the midst of growing concerns and dissatisfaction of the basket of species for SSF cooperatives, in December 2023 DFFE announced a submission of appeals on the decisions taken in allocating small-scale fishing rights to co-operatives in the Western Cape. However, due to end-of-year activities and the start of the fishing season, many SSF were unaware or unable to meet the deadline, leading to an extension until 31 January 2024.

SSF cooperatives in the Western Cape raised concerns about the appeals process and species allocation. Among the main issues highlighted is the failure of DFFE to engage and consult with cooperatives on decision-making processes and allocation principles before publishing the reasons, as mandated by SSF Policy regulations.

Additionally, the General Published Reasons lack sufficient information on species apportionment to the small-scale sector, making it difficult for fishers to understand their allocations and assess fairness. Overall, fishers expressed deep concerns as the basket proposed to them is falling short from being viable for nutrition and livelihood purposes.

Some cooperatives found the timeline for rights granting, species allocation, and appeal deadlines rushed, all coinciding with the start of the fishing season.

With support from the Legal Resource Centre, researchers and Masifundise, Western Cape cooperatives submitted appeals, awaiting outcomes to address these concerns.

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