Brace for Easter snoek shortage as fishers struggle with daily catch limits

Fishermen are selling Fresh snoek from their cars in Athlone. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane /Independent Newspapers

Fishermen are selling Fresh snoek from their cars in Athlone. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane /Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 19, 2024


Cape Town - Small-scale fishers have raised concerns over the supply of snoek in preparation for Easter celebrations, as the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) cracked down on daily catch limits.

This follows the DFFE enlisting the help of the SANDF at the weekend, when it inspected several vessels on the Hondeklipbaai slipway in the Northern Cape. Maria Welcome, spokesperson for environmental society organisation Green Connection, said fishers along the West Coast were struggling with quotas to meet the demands of fish supply.

“Snoek migration starts a cultural ritual that has been practised for as long as fishers can remember.

“Eager consumers of snoek and partakers in the Easter weekend fish rituals and delicacies should be warned – the shelves and pantries may be empty this year,” said Welcome.

A DFFE spokesperson, Peter Mbelengwa, said that on Friday several vessels were inspected and the department discovered that a number of recreational boats had exceeded their daily catch limit.

“The control officer then confiscated the excess fish and issued fines to the transgressors. Members of the public protested, demanding that no fish be confiscated or fines issued.

“At this point, the SAPS requested support from the SANDF in response to the public protests,” said Mbelengwa.

He said that on Saturday, 20 linefish vessels were out at sea at Hondeklipbaai. These vessels launched at around 5am in the absence of the Fishery Control Officers or any other law enforcement agency present at the launch site.

At around 12.30pm, when the vessels were busy offloading their catches, the officers were accompanied by the SAPS to inspect and monitor all catches. No fines were issued, and no fish were confiscated, Mbelengwa said.

Walter Steenkamp, who is a smallscale fisherman in Port Nolloth, said they could not understand why the government was trying to cut them out of the fishing industry.

“We’re trying to make a business out of the baby. So six years is a little bit short for people that didn’t know about any business.

“So the government must stop this. “They sit there in the office and decide for the communities.

“They must try to bring co-management in so that we can negotiate and sit around one table and put the regulations and everything in the basket and on the table. We are suffering as small-scale fisheries. This government doesn’t care for us,” said Steenkamp.

Welcome said that overnight, many of the 62 newly formed fisheries co-operatives who only received their rights recently were informed that cuts were made.

For many, this meant that more than half of their fishers will not be able to go to sea to catch snoek, Cape Bream, or any other traditional line fish, she said.

“It is unclear who authorised the army and police to go to this small town; however, for the past week, the Legal Resources Centre, Masifundise, and the Coastal Justice Network have been flooded with requests for assistance by traditional small-scale fishermen who are shocked that not only has the department delayed the processing of their line fish permits this year, but the number of boats that are permitted will be cut drastically,” said Welcome.

The SANDF did not respond to requests for comment by deadline yesterday.

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