The SA Small-Scale Fishers Collective’s representative, Garry Simpson, addresses members of the fishing community outside the Western Cape High Court. Photo: Dominic Adriaanse
Small-scale fishers told the Western Cape High Court that they should be a part of the long-term survival of the West Coast rock lobster.

This as the World Wildlife Fund-SA’s (WWF-SA) court action against the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries over its alleged failure to sustain the valuable natural resource began yesterday.

SA Small-Scale Fishers Collective representative Garry Simpson submitted to Judge Owen Rogers that the collective sought to be a part of proceedings, because of the far-reaching implications of the court’s decision.

“In terms of our amicus curiae (friend of the court) application, nothing prohibits our contribution but you, your honour, have the discretion to include us.

“We are saying by all means cut the allocations, but do not forget us and take into consideration what we have brought when making your decision,” said Simpson.

He said the small-scale fishers’ indigenous knowledge had been ignored by scientists for decades.

Legal counsel for the WWF and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had no objections to the application, but agreed that the matter would delay proceedings, which were a matter of urgency considering the 2018/19 total allowable catch was to be announced in just over a month.

Judge Rogers said the court had an understanding of small-scale fishers’ socio-economic situation and the far-reaching implications of the court’s rulings but perhaps their relief sought “was premature”.

Judge Rodgers advised the collective to approach the Cape Bar Society of Advocates for pro bono legal counsel.

The council’s chairperson, advocate Ismail Jamie, represented the department in proceedings.

Following proceedings, WWF-SA head of environmental programmes Dr Theressa Frantz said the rock lobster was on the verge of collapse and it remained essential for the system to be managed in a responsible manner.

She said the WWF looked forward to the outcome as they believe they had a good case.