The residents of Hangberg want to distance themselves from individuals who took part in looting and the vandalism of property on Sunday. The community is made up of warm, loving, giving people who by and large don't condone the violence recently seen in Hout Bay. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - "This is a dying trade, my friend," Roland Wichman smiles through wizened eyes, the skin on his face thickened by years at sea.

"You never see youngsters on the boats anymore. In the past, a skipper could take on two or three learners when they go out with their crew. 

"You're spending two, three days on the boat, maybe you spend a week, two weeks, sometimes you're out at sea a month, and you could take some learners with you.

"But those are mouths that need to be fed, and I can only afford to pay for my crew and the petrol and oil to make my trips to fill my quota. 

"You only see the same faces out on the water these days. No-one can afford to take on learners anymore.

"There's a saying here: 'vannie hand tot die mond (living from hand to mouth)'."

Fishing has been the livelihood of Wichman's family for generations.

His father, his father before him, and his father before him, all fished the waters of Hout Bay, the Southern Cape, Port Nolloth, and other commercial fishing spots to earn their daily bread. 

The residents of Hangberg want to distance themselves from individuals who looted and vandalised property. The community is made up of warm, loving, giving people who by and large don't condone the violence recently seen in Hout Bay. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

But things have not been plain sailing in recent times, particularly with the awarding of fishing quotas which local fishers in Hangberg say have been handed out unjustly.

"You know who deserves a quota? These men (gesturing to his crew). Not someone from up-country who has never worked the sea. But they take advantage of us because we are uneducated. They have the money and the power to get their quotas while we end up having to beg for scraps."

Wichman has a near-shore fishing quota that allows him to take 528kg of fish out of the sea.

That haul is worth around R150 000.

"It might seem like much, but that's your quota for the season. That's your quota for the year. I still have to pay my crew of ten. I have school fees. I have a bond to pay. Something breaks down on the boat, it must be fixed, otherwise how am I going to work? That money disappears like that," Wichman snaps his fingers.

"Hand tot die mond."

The residents of Hangberg want to distance themselves from individuals who looted and vandalised property. The community is made up of warm, loving, giving people who by and large don't condone the violence recently seen in Hout Bay. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

He says rising fuel costs have also affected his trade, because where he would've spent R500 on 50 litres of fuel, a fishing trip now sets him back more than R1000.

"My family had a boat, the Flamingo, my great-grandfather's boat. 

"For the people around here, it represented hope. It provided food. It provided jobs. It stimulated the local economy. It's not just the guys catching fish and working the sea benefiting from the Flamingo. The fish must be cleaned and processed. The cleaned and processed fish must be transported to market. The fish must be sold. That one boat fed the community, it put people through school.

"Now, she lies in the harbour, she can't go out. She doesn't have a quota."

Wichman says the solution to the ongoing fight over fishing quotas could easily be resolved if the government involved the local fishers. 

"Just come and talk to us. Come and ask us who are the real fishers. Then you do the same verification process all along the coast, and you find out who the real fishers are. Then you won't end up with guys with quotas of hundreds of tons who have never been out on a boat in their lives, and us fishers here, with a quota of a few hundred kilos for the year.

"Hand tot die mond," Wichman shakes his head with a chuckle.

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Cape Argus