Government is working tirelessly to legally recognise small-scale fishing communities and ensure that their fishing tradition and related economic activities are legally recognised and fully supported.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said he has noted the seriousness and importance of addressing this issue of communities not having legal access to marine resources for their customary, traditional practices, economic benefit, and food security.
Addressing the community of Richards Bay during an Imbizo on small-scale fisheries, held in KwaSokhulu Stadium on Thursday, the Minister said the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy was underway.
He announced that the department has since ensured that the law has been changed to recognise small-scale fisheries sector, through the establishment of small-scale fisheries sector, which is currently in motion.
This has been ignited by the amendment of the Marine Living Resource Act (MLRA) to recognise that there are small-scale fishers in South Africa.
The purpose of establishing small-scale fisheries sector in the rural coastal communities is to:
Uplift fishing communities by providing appropriate support mechanisms such as education and training; infrastructure and participatory management practices
Create a sustainable, equitable, small-scale fishing sector
Promoting interests of women, disabled and child-headed households
Communities and Government co-manages near-shore marine living resources
Take fundamental human rights, MLRA principles and international obligations into account
Secure the well-being and livelihood of small-scale fishing communities
Maintain the health of marine ecosystems.
316 fishing communities visited
For the first time in South Africa's history, 316 fishing communities along the coastline of South Africa have been visited, and just under 23 000 people registered from April to August 2016.
The purpose of these visits was to register and verify small-scale fisher that will benefit from marine resources, through this small-scale fishing sector, Minister Zokwana said.
During visits in KwaZulu-Natal, a total of 48 fishing communities expressed interest in being recognized as small-scale fishing communities, and out of these communities, a total of 4 085 individuals were registered and verified against set criteria.
Appeals for those who have been provisionally unsuccessful were opened and closed on the 08 August 2017.
In ensuring that these villages are kept informed of the process, I instructed the department to avail officials to go to all these villages and assist people who want to appeal and also give relevant information so that people know about the program of the department.
The departmental staff further visited all the communities for the purpose of assisting people who wished to appeal the initial lists of successful and unsuccessful fishers. Currently, the department is in the process of assessing all the appeals submitted by individuals who have been deemed not to meet the criteria, the Minister said.
He added that once he has recognised small-scale fishers per small-scale fishing community in KwaZulu-Natal, the department will mobilize the fishers to form one co-operative per community.
Fishers will also be assisted with the registration of the co-operatives with Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), and will be given basic training on the functioning of a co-operative, including roles and responsibilities. This process is envisaged to take place between October 2017 and December 2017.
Registered co-operatives will then be assisted to apply for a small-scale fishing right between January 2018 and March 2018.
As part of this process, the department will solicit inputs from the co-operatives regarding the fishing areas and utilization of marine resources. Small-Scale Fishing rights are envisaged to be allocated thereafter and co-operatives would then be able to apply for their respective fishing permits to fish.
Post the allocation of rights, the department will mobilize co-operatives into a co-management structure and will facilitate support programmes for the training and capacitation of the co-operative members, Minister Zokwana explained.
Aquaculture to address illegal fishing
Meanwhile, the Minister said that the department is working tirelessly to ensure that staff capacity is boosted and visibility is improved to decisively deal with the issue of illegal fishing for the sake of protecting marine resources for small-scale fishing communities.
In trying to address this challenge, he said the department is looking at Aquaculture as an alternative.
Operation Phakisa is the vehicle to fast-track food security and access to Ocean's Economy for these rural areas. The department is looking at various aquaculture projects that will be embedded in villages, and a number of partnerships to this effect are being strengthened, the Minister said.
Source: South African Government News Agency