Permit allocation a ‘fisherman’s genocide’

Only one small-scale fisher from Hout Bay has made the provisional list for near-shore fishing rights of West Coast rock lobster.

More than 600 fishers from Hout Bay, many of whom had previously held these rights, applied to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) last year.

The list, released on Friday April 28, has shocked the Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust, which represents three fishing co-operatives comprising hundreds of fishermen in the town.

Trust spokesperson Ikram “Lamie” Halim said the fact that the department had seen fit to approve only one fisher from Hout Bay, and only 16 small-scale fishers from around the Western Cape on the list, suggested it was “busy with a fisherman’s genocide”.

“I don’t even know what to say about this,” Mr Halim said at his boatyard in the harbour this week.

“I thought, at the very least, the previous rights-holders would be approved, and maybe even a few new ones. Many of our people thought they were safe. Now this has happened.”

This is the second blow to Hout Bay fishers this year. In February, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa, Masifundise Development Trust and South African United Fishers Front (SAUFF) called for a suspension of all fishing rights of West Coast rock lobster in the hopes of sustaining the species for future generations.

Mr Halim felt the latest move could result in affected fishers ignoring the law, as they felt current systems were failing them.

“In light of this list, and I acknowledge it is a provisional one, you might find people saying, ‘Let’s just go out to sea anyway. Let them put the cuffs on me and take me to prison.’ At least this way they will get a court date to state their case,” he said.

He said people were “broken” after learning of the list on Friday.

“They spent a lot of money working on their applications, which were thick documents. They paid legal fees to lawyers making sure they were right, and I myself spent hours going through their applications to make sure everything was in order.”

He said the only lifeline fishers had at the moment which allowed them to fish was their interim status, under DAFF’s Interim Relief Policy.

The Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust believes that following the fall of apartheid, the new government did not implement a new fishing policy for South Africa and instead only amended a few clauses in the old policy.

“I have called for a meeting with members of the trust to discuss the provisional near-shore fishing rights allocation. We have 30 days to comment, so we will make sure we get all our grievances down in writing, as that is the only way DAFF will listen to us,” Mr Halim said.

Queries sent to DAFF spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo and SAUFF, on Monday morning had not been responded to at the time of going to press. A Masifundise spokesman said he did not wish to comment “at this stage”.