Globally, there is a move towards farmed abalone, and South African abalone, known for its bigger size, is already seen as prized abalone on the international market. Photo: Supplied by SAPS.

JOHANNESBURG – Today is World Fisheries Day, which highlights the important role of fishing in communities around the world.

One in 10 people in the world rely on fishing and aquaculture to support their livelihoods.

In South Africa, we have 2 954km of coastline, with more than 1 000km of it in the Western Cape. That means one third of the country's coastline is in this province, and the economic benefits need to be maximised.

It’s estimated that the ocean’s economy has the potential to contribute R177 billion to national gross domestic product by 2033 and create 1 million jobs. But in order for the Western Cape’s small-scale fishers to meaningfully participate in the economy, it is vital that we fight for the equitable and transparent allocations of fishing quotas. These must take into account the communities of people in the province who make their livelihood from fishing, and must be balanced against sustainability. Without a sustainable approach to fishing, there will be fewer opportunities overall.

West Coast rock lobster currently stands at less than 2 percent of the pre-fished stock size. The degradation of this resource has a profound impact on job creation and the ability of small-scale fishers to earn a living.

We have to acknowledge that the day might come where the ocean will no longer be able to provide for all of the people fishing from it and pursue ways to involve people in our oceans economy that do not revolve around scarce resources. By creating legitimate opportunities for people, we will be able to fight the scourge of poaching.

Gangsterism and drugs

Poaching is run by criminal syndicates linked to gangsterism and drugs. However, the people who are being arrested are the runners and the divers who, more often than not, are small-scale fishers acting out of pure economic necessity. They are not members of syndicates, but merely people who have not been offered a viable economic alternative.

The ocean's economy presents opportunities for upskilling and job creation in other spheres including:

Aquaculture: South Africa has the potential to grow aquaculture from just more than 3 500 tons to more than 90 000 tons over the next 10 to 20 years. Already, the Western Cape makes up 85.5 percent of South Africa’s exports of fish, crustaceans and molluscs and has the highest number of operational abalone farms in the country.

Globally, there is a move towards farmed abalone, and South African abalone, known for its bigger size, is already seen as prized abalone on the international market. There is scope to grow exports of farmed abalone from South Africa. In the Western Cape, the Matzikama Municipality is seeking investors for its abalone farming projects, which could create 150 job opportunities at each site. Of the 35 aquaculture projects in the country, 22 are in the Western Cape.

Marine transport and manufacturing: Three of the country's eight commercial ports are based in the Western Cape, presenting opportunities for import and export, container shipping and boat building. The Western Cape is one of the premier boat building destinations in the world, with 28 boat manufacturers based here, employing more than 2 500 people. There is potential to grow these sectors and train or upskill people from local communities for jobs in boat building, ship repairs and hull cleaning.

Small harbours and tourism opportunities: Our small harbours are currently in various states of disrepair and degradation. By ensuring the effective management and maintenance of these facilities, we can open up opportunities in the tourism and leisure industries ranging from boat and fishing tours, and cruises.

Beverley Schäfer is the Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.

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