Fishing rights cut back

Ikram "Lamie" Halim

Hout Bay small-scale fishers are livid after it was announced that their fishing season would be reduced to an effective three months.

While Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) deputy director general, Siphokazi Ndudane, notified fishers on Friday that their total allowable catch (TAC) would not be cut, the department has drastically reduced the total allowable effort (TAE), or the amount of effort used to catch fish.

Of the 235 tons of West Coast Rock Lobster allocated to small-scale fishers in 316 fishing communities around the Western Cape, 10 tons have been allocated to Hout Bay.

According to Ikram “Lamie” Halim, of the Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust, each fishing community has been allocated certain times they may fish.

In the case of Hout Bay, this period runs from the beginning of December to the end of February.

The fishing season is usually from November to June the following year.

“This is going to make sustaining a livelihood impossible for us. In actual fact, the real figure is more like two months, because in December we get very high winds which makes it difficult to fish. Then we have all the public holidays as well, which removes more fishing days,” he said.

He believes 97 Hout Bay interim relief fishers will be affected by the decision.
Interim relief status was bestowed on small-scale fishers in 2007. It allows small-scale fishers short-term permits of between four and eight months, and it was intended to be a temporary solution for fishers who did not benefit from long-term rights established by the government.

Mr Halim said “once again” the department had made a decision without consulting fishers on the way forward.

“I was at the DAFF offices on Tuesday, and we were told there was basically nothing we could do and this was a decision made by the DDG. All they said is we must submit a proposal for an extension to the season. But how can they make such a decision without consulting us, and then once it’s already done tell us to apply for extensions?

“They are doing this to human beings who have a right to live.”

Charmaine Phillips, vice-chairperson of the Artisenal Fishers of Hout Bay, was also “horrified” by the decision.

“Not only have they cut the months, but they’re not even considering the weather and the weekends and public holidays. It will leave us with two months to fish,” she said.

“But it seems they’ve made their minds up. We will be meeting with the Hout Bay fishers, a lot of whom don’t even know about this. We must do something. I am fighting for poor fishers here.”

In September, violent protests erupted in Hangberg over a proposal to reduce the TAC of West Coast Rock Lobster.

Mr Halim feared the latest development would once more see people taking to the streets, although this was not something he wanted.

“We want to negotiate, but the government continues to make decisions that badly affect small-scale fishers.”

Recently, DAFF admitted in a briefing to Parliament that it did not have the money or resources to support the establishment of co-operatives in small-scale fishing communities, according to media reports.

This was something that had at one point been central to its small-scale fishing policy.

DAFF spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo acknowledged receipt of the Sentinel’s queries but these were not responded to at the time this edition went to print.