South Africa: Fishing Rights – Robbing Peter to Pay Paul a Pittance


There’s a resource grab happening in fishing. Minister Barbara Creecy has embarked on a program of taking fishing resources from successful individual small-scale fishers and putting them in the hands of the ANC created cooperatives, which have a 100% failure rate. Not a single fishing co-operative has ever successfully operated, created jobs, paid taxes or harvested their own fish. The net result will be the destruction of businesses and workers that are creating value in Western & Eastern Cape communities, in exchange for giving less money to fewer people.

Thirty days ago, the Department published two notices. They invited public comment on two proposals. One was to give 50% of the fishing allocation in traditional linefish and abalone to small scale fishing co-operatives and 25% of the effort in the squid fishing sector. The other was to put three fisheries, those for white mussel, oyster and hake handline, entirely as resources available to small scale fishers only. In terms of current policy all small-scale fishers have been forcibly collectivised into compulsory cooperatives. This gives rise to a host of problems, among them:

An important part of South Africa’s fishing resource would be collectivised, effectively producing less wealth and fewer jobs for South Africa’s people.

The process is back-to-front. Some rights have already been given to small scale fisheries, and then put on hold after industry protests;

The jobs of some 3,000 fishers and processors in the small to medium commercial squid sector alone, will be put at risk;

This would expand the small-scale sector beyond limits set out in policies, legislation and regulations drawn up by the Minister’s own ANC government;

Part of the definition of small-scale fishing is by the fishing methods used. This would contravene those definitions.

By way of example, it is abundantly clear that the small-scale fishing policy cannot apply to squid. Similarly, the Marine Living Resources Act, which governs fishing, provides a description of small scale fishers which not apply to squid fishing. Squid have never been grouped with species associated with small scale fishing.

The highest price obtainable for South African squid catches is by selling it abroad. This requires the squid to be blast frozen directly after it is caught. Only mechanised vessels can have blast freezers. By definition, small-scale fishers do not use sophisticated, mechanised vessels.