CAPE TOWN - Fishing communities have hailed a decision for the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) quota to be increased from 600 tons to 700 tons for the 2021/22 season.
In October hundreds of small-scale fishers were up in arms and protested against cuts in the quota.
They demanded the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) review its decision and consider the plight of the small-scale fishing communities who depend on the resource for a living.
DFFE spokesperson Albi Modise announced yesterday that Minister Barbara Creecy accepted a set of recommendations by the Consultative Advisory Forum (CAF), appointed to advise on the West Coast Rock Lobster fishery.
The report recommended that the Total Allowable Catch be increased for the 2021/22 season to 700 tons, given the dire socio-economic conditions of fishers reliant on WCRL for their livelihood.
“The report states that while 700 tons is sustainable and was one of the recommended options from the Scientific Working Group, it noted that the level would not allow immediate resource recovery. Instead the CAF recommended resource recovery be phased in over a longer term period.
“The CAF recommended a three-year phased reduction (700/550/400), which it said must be re-assessed each year. The recommended TACs will depend heavily on the urgent implementation of a poaching reduction strategy which will support resource recovery,” said Modise.
South African United Fishing Front (SAUFF) chairperson Pedro Garcia said that while the catch allowance was not exactly what they hoped for, they welcomed the decision to reverse the initial reduction.
“It is a positive outcome as it brings welcome relief to fishing communities already under pressure from the high cost of living and Covid-19 restrictions,” he said.
The director of the Masifundise Development Trust, Naseegh Jaffer said: “What now remains to be done urgently is for the specific sub-sector allocations to be determined so that fishers can set to sea to begin work. This outcome was reached after deliberations including various stakeholders. It confirms that involving communities in discussion and decision-making can be mutually advantageous.”
David Jordan of St Helena Bay Fishing Community Forum said the next step was to put in place systems to ensure that the management of the allocations to be made was also done jointly between government officials and rights holders.
“This will substantially contribute to sustainability and dignity in communities. Such co-management structures can already be implemented when new allocations are made in the next few days.
“Importantly, this success provides an example of what is possible in other fishery sectors like handline fishery, squid etc. We would now appeal to the minister and the department to do so with determination and haste,” said Jordan.