Johannesburg - Small-scale fishers will reap massive benefits when the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries allocates new fishing rights at the end of the month.

The fishing industry, which is dominated by big players, will now have communities living on South Africa’s coastlines benefiting from the sector.

South African fishing companies include Oceana Group, Premier Fishing and Sea Harvest, in a sector worth about R14 billion.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said on Monday that the department wanted to bring in more black people living on the coastline by allocating the new fishing rights to them.

He said the department was busy with the allocation of new fishing rights in tuna longline fishing in order to grow the sector to create jobs and reduce poverty.

“Through these rights, we want to bring in more black people, youth and women residing in the fishing communities to benefit from this industry as part of transforming the entire fishing industry,” Zokwana said.

Deputy director-general for Fisheries Siphokazi Ndudane said the department would allocate rights to 10 sectors, which include abalone, lobster, tuna, horse mackerel, hake-in-shore and the KwaZulu-Natal seine fishing.

Small coastline communities had never benefited from the allocation of fishing rights in the past.

“It is important because there was a lot of injustice that was done in the past,” said Ndudane.

However, President Jacob Zuma has now signed into law amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act, which will allow co-operatives in communities on the coastline to get fishing rights.

So far 300 such communities in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape look viable for these rights.

“We are now verifying that process. We want to give rights to people who don’t have any other income,” Ndudane said. The department wants to give the rights to people who have no other income, but depend on fishing to survive.

Big fishing companies would be restricted from operating closer to the fishing communities, she said.