Small-scale fisheries key to growth, transformation
JOHANNESBURG – The contribution of the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in recognising small-scale fishers (SSF) for the first time in South Africa's history has been a turbulent journey with evident distance sailed towards the set destination. With support from the Fisheries Branch of the DEFF, this fishing sector contributed more than R3 billion to South Africa's gross domestic product in 2019. This translates to more than 15 000 jobs.
The small-scale fishing sector will benefit more than 30 000 people from the coastal communities in the Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The fishing industry was among the least transformed 25 years ago, with only 1 percent fishing rights held by black South Africans.
To turn the tide, the Fisheries Branch of DEFF, in collaboration with the private sector, prioritises capacity building, skills development, access to finance and markets for SSF, so that they play a more pronounced role in the mainstream economy.
Small-scale fishers, through their co-operatives, are allocated solid fishing rights and access to a number of support programmes in partnership with provincial governments and the private sector. The DEFF has been visiting the coastal fishing communities to issue certificates to registered co-operatives and allocate renewable fishing rights of 15 years to small-scale fisheries co-operatives.
The DEFF initiated a programme to train researchers, recruit students at tertiary institutions and encourage them to take up careers in the industry.
Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy noted the need to embrace digital technology. Working with Abalobi NPO and the small-scale fishers, the Abalobi app was designed. The app, according to Dr Serge Raemaekers, the director of Abalobi, enabled small-scale fishers to play a meaningful role in co-management structures and address issues of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their coastal waters.
“Guided by the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy of 2012, the Department (DEFF) has been working in close collaboration with industry partners and the private sector to assist small-scale fishers to set up co-operatives in the coastal communities, registering them with the Companies and International Property Commission and providing extensive training in fishing and co-operative management,” Minister Creecy said.
A total of 122 small-scale fishing co-operatives have been registered across the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coastal communities. Western Cape coastal fishing communities are pending to get online urgently.
These milestones would not be possible without the active participation of the private sector. Oceana Group, the biggest fishing company in Africa and listed on the Johannesburg and Namibian Stock Exchanges, has been playing a key role in fostering real transformation in the fishing industry.
This has been characterised by providing jobs to members of fishing communities and formalising training opportunities for all registered small-scale fishing co-operatives.
“At Oceana Group we draw from our more than 100 years of industry capabilities to work in close collaboration with the DEFF in the provision of sustainable and scalable solutions to small-scale fisheries cooperatives and all stakeholders across the fishing value chain,” said Oceana chief executive Imraan Soomra.
“We share the DEFF’s belief that to ensure real transformation and real empowerment and for high impact and reach, the shared solutions should ultimately lead to the small-scale fishers being financially self-sufficient.”
Oceana’s goal was to work with the DEFF and other players in the fishing industry to lay the foundation for, and facilitate growth of profitable and sustainable small-scale fisheries co-operatives that satisfy the needs of the local and international markets.
Soomra said Oceana aimed to play its part to ensure that the small-scale fisheries co-operatives become successful and attract support from impact investors. DEFF’s positive approach towards gender equality is also highlighted as a key success factor.
“The DEFF continues to bring positive change to an industry that hitherto was least transformed,” said Khethiwe Mabuza, a member of a small-scale fisheries co-operative in Richards Bay.
“We laud Minister Creecy and her officials for empowering women and youth by ensuring they benefit from the fishing industry eco-system. This includes the secondary spin-offs comprising sales of fish and fish products, fish cleaning and preparation, boat building and boat repairs and net making and repairs.”
Musa Ndlangamandla is a freelance journalist who for many years has been writing on politics and socio-economical issues.