After an 11-year journey to acquire their fishing rights, fishermen from the small fishing town of Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape can finally get on their fishing boats and catch line fish and rock lobster – on their own terms.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Senzeni Zokwana, recently launched South Africa’s first small-scale fisheries cooperatives - the Port Nolloth and the Hondeklipbaai cooperatives, which also marks the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy.
The two small-scale fishing communities have now received basic training and they have now registered their own cooperative for the purpose of applying for 15-year fishing rights.
Minister Zokwana said the fishing rights are a game changer for the small fisheries sector.
“We want them to build their own funds so that they can progress from being small-scale fishers to [big players].
The launch comes after Zokwana approved the final list of small-scale fishers for the Northern Cape in October 2017, the Eastern Cape in December 2017 and KwaZulu-Natal in December 2017 - with the exception of the Western Cape communities.
In the Northern Cape, Zokwana has declared 103 individual small-scale fishers.
Zokwana said the fishing rights give local fishermen dignity and turn them from fishing illegally to doing so under protected rights.
“Our people have been turned into illegal fishers because there was no system that guided them. … We want to get them to understand the value of the fish that they are going to harvest. We must be able to get markets for them. We must build infrastructure for storage.”
Morgan Johnson, a local fisherman and the chairperson of the Port Nolloth cooperative, said 75 households will benefit from the fishing rights.
Johnson said the launch marked an end of a fishing rights application journey that for 11 years.
He said the cooperative was made up of local fishermen, including women and young people.
The board of the cooperative is made up of seven members – five men and two women.
As part of the fishing rights, they will be sending boats into the waters to catch line-fish species like snoek and cape bream, horders, mussels and kelp.
“There are 75 households out of Port Nolloth that will benefit from the small-scale fishing rights policy. Hondeklipbaai, is a smaller town than us and about 28 households will benefit from the fishing permit,” Johnson said.
He said the cooperative currently has nine fishing boats and 15 to 20 small lobster vessels. A quarter of the fishermen are young people.