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Young small-scale fishers seek recognition and support for their jobs and livelihoods

Neville van Rooy, community outreach coordinator at eco-justice group The Green Connection, said that for young small-scale fishers, the ocean provides a sense of self-worth and purpose. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Neville van Rooy, community outreach coordinator at eco-justice group The Green Connection, said that for young small-scale fishers, the ocean provides a sense of self-worth and purpose. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 24, 2022

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Cape Town - Young small-scale fishers along the coast are concerned government did not recognise their value as self-employed South Africans in their endeavour to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities, from the ocean.

This came after president Cyril Ramaphosa’s Youth Day speech last week which focused largely on the unprecedented high unemployment rate and lack of opportunities for youth.

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Geralt Cloete, a young indigenous Nama Khoi from Sandrift said: “The president talks about the youth not taking up the opportunities provided, but if government keeps doing its own thing, without input from the people, they will keep making the same mistakes by creating ‘opportunities’ that the people do not want or need.

“The government must listen to its people, to better understand what is working on the ground and where we need support.”

Neville van Rooy, community outreach co-ordinator at eco-justice group The Green Connection, said the ocean provided a sense of self-worth and purpose for young small-scale fishers.

A young woman from Saldanha Bay West Coast, a graduate of the Green Connection’s Legacy Programme, small-scale fisher Natalie-Jane van Wyk, said: “Coastal communities have been taking the initiative for generations, but we do not get the support we need to develop our ideas.

“Now, with coastal communities facing an onslaught of offshore oil and gas exploration proposals, which threaten our small businesses, we hope President Ramaphosa will do more to protect our right to meaningful public participation processes.”

Van Wyk said a healthy ocean often put them in a better position than many other young unemployed and struggling graduates.

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South African United Fishing Front chairperson Pedro Garcia said there should be a more concerted effort on the part of government to genuinely assist the youth in fishing communities: “They (government) are certainly not doing enough, especially as they (the youth) are marginalised in so many ways.”

The Green Connection strategic lead Liz McDaid said: “Young fishers want their livelihoods protected so that they can, in turn pass on their knowledge, indigenous knowledge, of the ocean and their livelihood skills on to the next generation.”

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