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Small-scale fishers hope for faster decriminalisation of inland fishing

Small-scale fishers expect the policy, which has been in the making since 2017, to provide an efficient regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

Small-scale fishers expect the policy, which has been in the making since 2017, to provide an efficient regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

Published Aug 31, 2021

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Cape Town - Small fisher groups hope that Cabinet approval of the National Freshwater Inland Wild Capture Fisheries' Policy for implementation, will hasten the decriminalisation of the system for the inland fishers who are still governed by pre-democracy laws.

Small-scale fishers expect the policy, which has been in the making since 2017, to provide an efficient regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector.

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They also hope that it formalises the currently informal and unrecognised activities of small-scale fisheries.

The policy provides for the setting up of developmental fisheries' governance institutions; support to growing inland fisheries value chains; management of a sustainable inland fishing and addresses the issues of equity and transformation of the sector, among other things.

SA United Fishing Front (Sauff) spokesperson Pedro Garcia said: “At least now we can move quicker into decriminalising the system for the inland fishers until such time that the policy can be implemented.

“I think that by virtue of the approval, it gives us some leverage to decriminalise the system as we have done in the maritime sector for KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape where subsistence fishers were given sports and recreation permits, but with certain conditions where they could also barter and trade with those same permits.

“We are involved in the Phakisa groups at the moment and if we can use Phakisa to fast-track some of the legislative work that need to be completed to bring this thing to life, then that is what we are going to do.”

Operation Phakisa is the government’s ocean economy strategy, which places marine resources at the heart of economic development. Through Operation Phakisa, the government aims to grow the aquaculture sector from R2 billion to up to R6bn, with a potential job creation of up to 210 000 by 2030.

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Garcia said the move was definitely positive, but a lot of work still lay ahead and fishers were not going to see the fruits of the decision materialising in the near future.

Small-scale fishing sector organisation Masifundise said in a statement: “The inland fisheries sector has, for many years, operated with no legislative framework for its governance and little recognition for the vital role inland fishers play as food producers.

“Due to a lack of clear, national-level policy and legislation regulating the inland fisheries sector to date, inland fishers have operated informally or used recreational fishing permits – the only permit option that currently exists for them.”

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Masifundise programme manager Carmen Mannarino said: “Until now, freshwaters continued to be regulated according to pre-democracy ordinances and regulation at provincial level, resulting in the criminalisation for small-scale fishing people, whose dignity and rights have been constantly violated for decades

“We expect that Cabinet’s approval will be swiftly followed up with plans and resources allocation to ensure that policy implementation is carried out urgently, allowing small-scale fishers to secure their livelihoods and create opportunities for local economic development, while contributing to food security, especially at this time of unemployment and food crisis,” said Mannarino.

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