Plea to remove ban as subsistence fishers battle to survive
Desmond D’Sa, spokesperson for the Durban South Community Environmental Alliance, said his organisation had written to the president and to Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy on April 27 to appeal for the lifting of the ban.
However, he said the organisation had not received a response. D’Sa said the lockdown had affected more than 12000 subsistence fishers, who were unable to make a living and feed their families.
In the letter to the Presidency, D’Sa said: “These fishers form part of the food sector and should be allowed to fish, just as informal traders can sell. It is a biased decision that only small-scale fishers are given permission at this time while subsistence fishers cannot.”
D’Sa said fishers were in possession of valid permits and should be allowed to fish. “We urge the government to allow the subsistence fishers to be considered as essential services, as they are a part of the food sector,” he said.
KZN Subsistence Fisher Folk chairperson Riaz Khan said fishers were unsure under which lockdown level they would be allowed to fish. “Small-scale fisheries have been allowed to fish, and what they don’t want to understand is that subsistence is equivalent to small-scale fisheries because they sell half of their catch and retain half,” he said.
“During this lockdown, people are starving. Whatever a fisherman catches, he sustains his family with and sells some to get the essentials for the family,” he said.
“People are messaging me, saying their kids are going to bed with no food. We have sent correspondence to the government and there is nothing coming through.”
Salo Govender, who represents hundreds of unemployed fishers, said families had not received food parcels and were begging neighbours and family for groceries.
“These guys live off the ocean; the ocean is what feeds us, the ocean is our take-away, and there is nobody who can understand the struggles we go through.”
Govender added that fishers had “practised social distancing for many years” because it was impossible to fish alongside another fisher without lines becoming entangled.
IFP MPL Narend Singh said he had written to Creecy to ask for a directive regarding the plight of fishers whom he said were expected to register as small-scale fishers in 2016 as there was no legal category for subsistence fishers.
However, he said fishers had not registered and some had claimed they had been unable to do so when they approached local government offices at the time.
Singh said they were currently operating using a recreational fishing licence, which meant they were not permitted to fish under current level 4 lockdown regulations.
He said the registration window had closed on March30 and he had now asked the minister to extend it and to provide clarity regarding all fishing.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the Presidency was unable to confirm receipt of the correspondence from the organisation.
“We do, however, advise the writers to engage with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Fisheries on their challenges as all fishing, except for recreational fishing, is allowed in level 4 of the lockdown,” Diko said.