‘Fish must be protected’

Members of the fish distribution group alongside a car boot full of stock fish are, from left, Rasta, Michael Swanepoel, Christiaan Schlechter and Rasdan.

A group of Hangberg residents is concerned that free fish intended to be distributed among the poor and vulnerable in the harbour community are not reaching their intended destination.

Some commercial boat owners off-loading fish in Hout Bay harbour kindly donate bins of excess stock fish to the community.

The group, comprising mostly Rastafarian residents, then distributes the fish among the needy of Hangberg. However, they say some “opportunists” have infiltrated the process and are now selling the fish for their own financial gain.

On Monday September 17, as the boats were off-loading their catch, members of the group were present to monitor the situation.

Christiaan Schlechter, an ancestral fisher, who has been supporting the Rastafarians’ feeding scheme, said it was a fact that most people in Hangberg were unemployed, and they were battling to put food on the table.

This was why it was important the fish provided by the boat owners were put to good use.

Mr Schlechter showed the Sentinel how he had loaded the boot of his car with the fish provided by the boat owners, ready for distribution.

A Rastafarian man, Rasdan, said it was “not right” that people were taking advantage of the feeding scheme.

“There are people who have been fishers their whole lives, but when they retire there is nothing for them. There is no money, so we try to help the unemployed and elderly.”

One boat owner said he would always help the community where he could with “decent fish”, but he was aware there were some people coming to the boats and simply “pocketing” the fish to sell.

Michelle Yon, a caretaker for the interim relief fishing policy in Hout Bay, said she was grateful the boat owners donated the fish, and that the group was trying to get it to
the most vulnerable in the community.

“However, I would like the process taking place through proper structures, so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can take advantage of it,” she said.