Every year, World Fisheries Day is celebrated on 21st November around the globe. On this day, small-scale fishers celebrate their livelihoods and culture and express solidarity with their struggle for human rights.

This year has also been declared the UN International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA2022). This year focuses on recognising the vital role small-scale fishers play in the production of local food systems, livelihood opportunities and helping to sustain the ocean environment.

As important as it is to celebrate the livelihoods, traditions and culture of small-scale fishers (SSF) and fishing communities, it is equally important to share their struggle for recognition, access, and against the exploitation of the natural resources through the Blue Economy.

Masifundise, local small-scale fishers, African delegates of the Regional Advisory Group for the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and partnering organisations, participated in various activities leading up to World Fisheries Day.

On the 18 and 19 November, Masifundise hosted an International Fisher-to-Fisher Exchange coordinated by our partner organisations FIAN international, Transnational Institute and Centro Internazionale Crocevia. Small-scale fisher representatives came together for a two-day capacity development session focusing on tools for struggles. The training session equipped participants to analyse local struggles using the lenses of critiques to capitalism, 5 Rs, and human rights (in particular, the right to food and nutrition).

On the 20th November, the group attended a community event as part of the 4th World Small-scale Fisheries Congress: Africa (4WSFC). The programme celebrated small-scale fisheries in Africa through music, poetry, stories and discussions but also gave SSF an opportunity to share the struggles they face in their communities.

On World Fisheries Day, Masifundise presented on the Action Research panel and hosted a focus session with FIAN International titled, Stewards of our Waters and Seas: time to recognise and support small-scale fishers at the 4WSFC, Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town.

The session created a discussion around the violations experienced by SSF in Africa but also looked at strategies to protect the rights of SSF and food sovereignty practices. Walter Steenkamp, chairperson of Coastal links Northern Cape, suggested a solution to the threat of oil and gas in his community:

“We want our government to come up with a solution to this. As fishers, we sit with a solution. We would like to work with the government in setting up co-management structures with all small-scale fishers so we can be involved in decision-making and prevent this from happening.”