Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Something fishy: After nine years of destructive policy delays, fishers vow to take action

Inshore fishermen have it tough the world over - none more so than in South Africa where, despite legislation enshrining the right s of bona-fide fishermen it's the big companies and organisations that continue to control the industry - excerpts from an article in the Daily Maverick, ZA.

"The oldest profession before the oldest profession was, of course, subsistence and small-scale fishing. South African small-scale and artisanal fishers have fought long and hard for their rights and while well-intentioned policy exists, it is yet to be properly implemented. Meanwhile, fishers charge that interim relief measures are being mismanaged, are riddled with corruption and have fractured fishing communities. Fishers have now vowed to turn 2015 into a year of action. By MARIANNE THAMM.

“We have persistently brought areas of corruption and mismanagement in the allocation process to the attention of DAFF officials but nothing gets done about these,” Adams charged.

Government’s Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) policy was adopted after a lengthy process in 2012 and the 1998 Marine Living Resources Act was finally only amended and signed off in May 2014.

In the memorandum to the minister Adams charged that the DAFF was removing bona fide fishers from lists, had continued to issue late permits depriving fishers of their ability to pursue their livelihood and in fact criminalising them. Over and above this, beneficiary lists were often manipulated to benefit non-fishers including “professionals, business people and a range of others already in employment elsewhere”.
“This not only deprives traditional fishers of their rights to earn a living but causes significant conflict in communities. It is clear that DAFF officials lack knowledge of the IR system and are unable to respond to the needs of small-scale fishing communities. Others are simply unresponsive, not replying to correspondence or requests for meetings. They even disregard valid information submitted to the department,” said Adams.
Adams said the Department also did not keep records of catches, which resulted in allocations based on inadequate information, and that DAFF hardly ever followed up after discussions and meetings with communities.

According to a Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 2010 GDP report there are around 147 fishing communities, 28,338 fisher households and about 29,233 people who are considered “true” subsistence fishers, although Coast Links say the figure is around 40,000. Only around 2,000 of these benefit from IR.

The 2011 WWF “Fisheries: Facts and Trends” survey revealed that in 2009 fish worth R4.4 billion were landed in South Africa, the equivalent of 583,000 tonnes of fish. Revenue from commercial fisheries exports were an estimated R3.1 billion contributing to 0.5 percent of the country’s GDP. Fishing in the Western Cape contributes 0.2 percent of the Gross Geographic Profit while in the Eastern Cape squid fishing generates R500 million in foreign revenue per year, making it one of the country’s most valuable fisheries. South Africa’s commercial fishing industry employs approximately 43,458 people, including seasonal and permanent employment.

Until 1994 South Africa’s fishing industry was white-controlled and owned. While the 1998 Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) declares that South Africa’s natural living marine resources and environment “belong to all the people of South Africa”, the country’s oceans have become contested territory. Subsequent legislation has aimed to transform this sector and to restore rights particularly to fishing communities dotted along South Africa’s coastlines and who are more than aware of sustainable fishing practices.

The South African coastline is divided in to five “basket areas” from the Namibian border to the Cape of Good Hope from here to Cape Infanta, from Cape Infanta to Tsitsikamma, from Tsitsikamma to Pondoland and from Pondoland to the Mozambican border.

The new policy proposes that each small-scale fishing community establishes a community based legal entity (CBLE) that is responsible for exercising the fishing right granted to the entity and how the catch will be sold. The CBLE will pay a nominal application fee for small-scale fishing rights.

Fishers who are eligible to become members of a CBLE must be South African, over 18, have a history of harvesting marine living resources personally, be able to show a direct historical involvement in the small-scale fisheries sector for at least 10 years, show a historical dependence on marine living resources, have no other employment and subsist from their catch. The new Small-Scale policy proposes that preferential areas near-shore are prioritized and demarcated as small-scale fishing areas and is some areas rights could be exclusively reserved for small-scale use.

Coastal Links members are not going to go away quietly and are currently planning a series of local protests to highlight their frustrations.

The irony, said Gqamlana, is that while small-scale fishers were struggling to get policy implemented “the commercial sector, which has always benefitted from the system, even in the previous dispensation, continues to benefit. They are not plagued by these difficulties. The people who should be benefitting from this current dispensation are not. And that is the irony. I hope that some people with a conscience will, 20 years down the line, do some serious introspection.” DM

For the full story read here: