Fishers force Creecy to courts to review small-scale fisheries rule
Cape Town - Fishers seeking fairness and accuracy have prevailed over Environment, Forestry And Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy, forcing her to ask the High Court to urgently review and set aside her own department's processes in the Western Cape.
However, the fishers’ success comes at a cost that both fishers and the department said was unavoidable if justice was to be done.
Creecy’s decision to approach the courts was made during a virtual meeting with fisheries officials from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) and small-scale fisheries (SSF) organisations at which she was reporting back on actions to be taken following the recent SSF verification and identification audit for the province.
Creecy’s spokesperson Albi Modise said: “Based on legal advice, the minister will seek the review of the entire process of those who originally applied for all Western Cape communities.”
Modise said: “Should the court application be successful, originally registered individuals will have an opportunity to submit new information to support their original applications and thus ensure a process that is applied fairly and consistently to all communities. All Western Cape communities will be affected.
“Approaching the court will cause a delay of at least another year in the granting of rights for some communities. But, the minister believes the consequences of not approaching the court are potentially even more disastrous. A new process is the only way to ensure that rights are allocated fairly,” said Modise.
South Africa United Fishing Front (SAUFF) spokesperson Pedro Garcia said: “We have pledged to support this process as there are clear indications that the original process was critically flawed and had resulted in questionable outcomes which could have a devastating impact of the livelihoods of bona-fide fishers and fishing communities.”
“SAUFF understands there will be concerns from fishers and fishing communities. In this regard we have noted that access to resources which could yield economic viability for SSF co-ops will only be available once the proposed resources split has been finalised and once resources expires which are held by current rights holders. This can only happen once the fishing rights allocation process is concluded and rights revert to the state for redistribution,” said Garcia.
Small-scale fishers lobby group Masifundise Development Trust director Nasseegh Jaffer said: “Although it is positive that this is happening in the Western Cape, the audit findings clearly point at fundamental flaws in the department’s verification process, not just in the Western Cape, but also in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.”
“There too, bona fide fishers are excluded despite the process continuing. This is an affront to traditional and small-scale fishers in these provinces,” said Jaffer.