Small scale fishers say they face bleak Christmas

Protesters say government policy designed to empower them is failing

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Photo of protesters
Fishers protest outside parliament. Mike Mlengana, Director General Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Department (right) accepts a memorandum from Yonga Booi, Chairperson Western Cape Small Fishing Forum. Photo: Mandla Mnyakama

Members of small scale fishing co-operatives in the Western Cape say they have been struggling since 2012 to get fishing licences. They say it is a matter of urgency that they get permits for fishing baskets or else they will face yet another bleak Christmas.

Last week, the unhappy fishers took their protest to parliament, waving placards and chanting awulethu fish’ wethu (please give us our fish). The small group included fishermen and women from Hout Bay, Langa, Masiphumelele, Nyanga Strandfontein and Vrygrond.

They say they want government to make its Small Scale Fisheries Sector policy a reality by allocating them fishing rights.

The fishers said that they are excluded by a stipulation that applicants prove they have ten years experience. They also accused the department of providing licences mostly to big private fishing companies and not small scale fishers. In a memorandum, they also called for the department to respect the rights of women in the fishing industry. They demanded much more transparency from the department.

Joseph Appolis, 60, who says he worked for 30 years at a private fishing company until it was liquidated, said, “We rely on fishing to survive and this policy works against us, and left many of us starving even though it was supposed to be beneficial to us.”

He claimed only 25 fishermen were allocated with licences out of 193 applicants from the Forum, and that many successful applicants were not strictly fishermen but had other jobs.

Yonga Booi, chairperson of the Western Cape Small Fishing Forum, said, “Our people have been waiting under hunger and starvation since this policy was adopted … We are facing another black Christmas this year because the department’s delays have again made it impossible for us to access fish this Christmas.”

Booi said department officials had told the struggling fishers to rather approach licenced companies for work, and had provided them with the names of companies they could approach.

Mike Mlengana, Director General of the Department of Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries, accepted the memorandum and said he would ask his deputy to probe the ten years experience requirement. 

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TOPICS:  Fishing

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