Coastal Links – South Africa is gearing up for the WFFP General Assembly to be held in Cape Town on 1-5 September. One of the critical issues Coastal Links will add to the agenda is access rights. According to the fisher people from all four Coastal Provinces, the most important challenge remains access to resources, both in the sphere of ocean resources as well as social development.
The South African context differs hugely from many parts of the world, but yet at the same time has many similarities. In South Africa we have been a part of writing a new policy that will govern small-scale fisheries in the country. However it’s been two years since this policy was adopted by our cabinet, nearly a year has passed since this policy was enacted as law and still we are not able to feel the changes on the water.
In the Northern Cape Province, the diamond mining companies own the vast majority of the coastal land, and fishers only have access to about 10% of the 300 km coastline. In the Western Cape Province, the fishers from Langebaan, a traditional fishing town, are currently embroiled in a court case against the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). This court case must decide on the unfair fisheries agreements that exist between commercial fishers and the DEAT, which undermined the fishing rights of small-scale fishers. The Eastern Cape Province fishers suffer from similar treatment, an in particular from conservation policies. According to the constitution, the fishers have customary rights to practice their traditional fishing livelihoods. Yet, these rights are not fulfilled, and recently two fishers were shot and killed by park rangers for practicing their livelihoods. In the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, fishers are being arrested for selling fish even though the law was changed years ago to allow for fishers to sell their catches.
These are but a few examples and there are many more to share. On a more positive note, we can proudly claim many victories – including the endorsement of the National Small-scale Fishing Policy. The the many battles we have won, is a direct result of many years effort to strengthen our organisation, build unity in communities and mobilise masses of fishers so that we can speak with one unified voice.
We – Coastal Links South Africa – will continue to fight for the improvement of the lives of our fishers and actively mobilise for a more unified global voice via WFFP.
A luta continua!