Delay fears for fishers as minister moves to set aside rights allocation process
Cape Town – A mammoth task awaits the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) in its bid to review and set aside the process of awarding small-scale fishing rights in the Western Cape, industry players have said.
They have said any further delays will compound the back-breaking situation fishers find themselves in – many of whom have died with nothing to pass on to their families.
The industry players were yesterday reacting to Minister Barbara Creecy’s recent announcement that an audit found the rights verification processes were “wholly inadequate and that the results of the assessments cannot and should not be relied on for any decision-making purpose in terms of the regulations”.
Fishing is the lifeblood of coastal economies across the province, and Creecy will approach the entire process of those who originally applied for permits, as among the errors identified are the inaccurate capture of information and the incorrect adjudication of applications by community panels.
There was also inconsistent application of criteria between communities, an incorrect and incoherent application and appeals process, as well as incomplete and inaccurate data, including lost applications.
The department said the court process would cause a delay of at least another year in the granting of rights for some communities.
The consequences of not approaching the court were potentially even more disastrous, warned the department.
“A new process is the only way to ensure that rights are allocated fairly,” the department said.
Masifundise, an organisation that does community development work in small-scale fishing communities throughout South Africa, and which has led many legal challenges in support of the small-scale fishery, said they have been asking for the redo process for years, and welcomed the decision.
However, they also noted that it would be hard on small-scale fishers who have been waiting since the promulgation of the policy in 2012.
Masifundise said the fisheries branch of Deff lacked human resource capacity.
Masifundise director Naseegh Jaffer said: “The minister has requested the support of stakeholders in the sector, but the internal capacity of the department must be upgraded too.
“In conclusion, the Deff has a lot of work to do in following through with this decision. Masifundise will not oppose this review request from the minister as we want the process to be expedited.
“We stand by small-scale fishers along the way to ensure that their rights are protected and that their livelihoods needs are met,” Jaffer said.
Masifundise’s Naomi Cloete, a smallscale fisher on the West Coast and a member of Coastal Links, said: “The traditional fishers are paying for the minister’s mistakes.”
Pedro Garcia, co-chairperson and spokesperson of the SA Small Scale Fisheries Collective and chairperson of the SA United Fishing Front expressed support for the initiative, saying the previous one was flawed, and remedial action was urgently needed.
“There must be certainty that there isn’t going to be a mess made. We support the initiative.
“Whatever transpires, for now there will be interim relief,” Garcia said in relation to the deparment’s announcement that the court would also be asked to order that whatever form of access to fish by communities and individual fishers would have to remain in place until the new verification process was completed.