File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy has announced that an independent audit will be commissioned to look into the process of allocating fishing rights to small-scale fishers.

Creecy made the announcement this week during an engagement with fishing communities in the Overstrand region at the Thusong Centre in the village of Hawston. Creecy also held talks with fishers from the Hout Bay area yesterday.

During the Hawston engagement, Creecy said her department was looking at ways in which small-scale fishers would be able to sell catches without marketers acting as middlemen.

“We are bringing in an independent audit team to look into the fishing rights allocation process for small-scale fishers. Those who were allocated rights and are on the list will receive their rights by December this year. We want to move away from interim relief,” she said.

If fish were unable to reach maturity and reproduce, the industry would be faced with the crisis of having no more fish to catch, she said.

Last month, during an engagement with West Coast fishing communities in Lambert’s Bay, Creecy said the department would conclude the allocation of fishing rights for small-scale co-operatives in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape during September and October, while the allocations in the Western Cape would be concluded at the beginning of the fishing season.

This would include announcements on the “basket of species” to be made available to the registered small-scale co-operatives in the coastal regions.

Chairperson of the SA United Fishing Front, Pedro Garcia said fishers were left with unanswered questions following Creecy’s visit.

Garcia, however, welcomed the audit, and the registration of co-operatives and training, which would inform the allocation process.

Hawston fisher Vernon Abrahams said: “I have heard these same promises before from the previous minister (Senzeni) Zokwana and it sounds like more of the same to me.

“We told this minister that if she wanted to make changes, she should start in the commercial sector; they have an abundance of fish in every sector, and they must be halved and the halves shared among the small-scale fishers,” he said.

Abrahams said the small-scale fishers were being driven to poaching under current conditions.

He said fishing communities, which were presently suffering, would soon become tired of waiting for improved fishing conditions.

Cape Times