Agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana.

JOHANNESBURG  -  Substantive transformation in South Africa's fishing industry remains a challenge and requires a collective responsibility and focus given its potential to unlock economic growth, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana has said.

In a speech on Tuesday to launch the 2020 fishing rights allocation process, Zokwana said the participation of coastal communities should no longer be reduced to that of labourers only, 25 years since the end of apartheid rule, as many of them consisted of multi generations of fishing families with vast experience.

"When we talk transformation in the fishing industry we need to be honest in our discussions in order for government to adequately deliver and achieve on this imperative," he said.

"I therefore invite all those that have resources at their disposal to come forward with workable suggestions on how we can achieve substantive transformation in the sector without collapsing and jeopardizing businesses and investments already made."

 He said the sector remained fairly unknown and undervalued despite various efforts and interventions to promote it and in spite of South Africa's  endowment with the Indian Ocean on the east coast, the Atlantic Ocean on the west and Southern Ocean to the south.

He cited tuna fishery, which had over the years of South Africa’s membership to regional fisheries management organisations increased allocations, but whose full potential had yet to be realized.

"There is a number of potential candidate species in the pipeline, like the octopus and other by-catch species as an example," said the minister.

"South Africa as a developing nation needs to intensively engage with every aspect of economic growth opportunity to achieve prosperity. The oceans economy and more specifically, fisheries and aquaculture present such opportunity."

He warned that exclusiveness in the industry, leaving out communities disadvantaged by South Africa's racially divided past, would lead to narrow growth and increase insecurity to those currently benefiting.

"I therefore urge that each and every one of industry players come into party to ensure that the transformation agenda in the fishing sector is realized during the 2020 fishing rights allocation process," Zokwana said.

The agriculture and fisheries department had begun "with speed" the building of the small scale fisheries sector through coastal communities cooperatives, training them on business management, the minister said, calling for by-in from established companies through mentor-ship and capital investments.

"Small scale fisheries will play a critical role in addressing food security and unemployment," he said. "So it is at the best interest of the industry to embrace it and extend a helping hand to them."

- African News Agency (ANA)