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PLAAS simplifies fishing policy

PLAAS simplifies fishing policy

The University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), in collaboration with Masifundise Development Trust and Too Big to Ignore – a global partnership of small-scale fishers – recently launched a 16-page booklet entitled Handbook for Fishing Communities in South Africa. The publication introduces the new Small-Scale Fishing Policy, which for the first time in South African history realises the rights of fishers to be recognised and provides them with access to food and the ability to sustain their livelihoods through fishing activities.

Produced by PLAAS and Masifundise Development Trust in four of the coastal provinces  languages – Afrikaans, English, IsiXhosa and IsiZulu – the booklet will be distributed to fishing communities around the coast. It unpacks fishing policy legislation and speaks directly to fishers, explaining step-by-step how they may go about accessing their new rights to in-shore resources such as the fish variants including yellowtail, snoek, Cape Salmon, and West Coast rock lobster. In addition, the recent fiercely contested fishing rights of small-scale fishing communities makes this booklet a vital tool for all those involved in the fishing industry, particularly for people who would rather not be bogged down by legal jargon.

The launch took place at the Multipurpose Centre in Ocean View on 15 May 2014 and was attended by 150 people, including fishing community representatives from around the coast and from Ocean View, a member of Parliament, academics, students, representatives of the Rockerfeller foundation, fisheries officials and the media. Key speakers at the event were Mr Saasa Pheeha, Acting Chief Director of Marine Resource Management, Mr Andy Johnston, veteran fisheries activist, Ms Solene Smith, member of Coastal Links community organisation in Langebaan, Mr Naseegh Jaffer, Director of Masifundise Development Trust, and Prof Moenieba Isaacs, PLAAS, University of Western Cape.

Mr Andy Johnston, a fisher of over 50 years, stated, ‘We had a vision. We built alliances locally, nationally and internationally to raise the voices of the poor fishers across various platforms, for example at the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome. According to Naseegh Jaffer, ‘the community handbook will act as a guide to small-scale fisheries by breaking down the legalese of the policy and specifically focusing on the operational and procedural aspects. PLAAS’s associate Professor Moenieba Isaacs told fishers that the policy gives them the right to be recognised as a group, the right to livelihood, and the right to food security. However, these rights come with  responsibilities, and Isaacs warned that if they don’t take responsibility for their rights and actively get involved in the organisation, representing the system will not change.

Professor Isaacs stated further that to implement the policy, structured capacity building of co-operatives in communities is crucial. Mr Saasa Pheeha welcomed the launch of the small-scale fisheries handbook and said that the fisheries department has committed a budget of R90 million towards the implementation of this policy and to set aside rights allocations for small-scale fisheries, and is currently busy with the identifying, verifying and registering of small-scale fishers.

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