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Okachowa reels in fishing rights

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Securing fishing rights has enabled a group of fishermen to boost their income while also ensuring that they fish sustainably.

Forming a fishing cooperative has enabled fishermen in the Northern Cape to not only feed their families, but to also export lobster and trade their fish in bulk.

A group of Port Nolloth fishermen joined forces to create the Okachowa Fishing Cooperative in 2018. At the time, they were only able to sell their catch locally and could not trade in bulk, says one of the cooperative’s members, Morgan Johnson (50).

He explains that the fishermen were not able to secure trade agreements individually, but forming a cooperative made this possible. Okachowa Fishing Cooperative now exports lobster to China, and sells lionfish and kelpfish to local communities.

“We have a trader who orders a ton of fish per week from the cooperative. The members then go out to sea to catch the type of fish ordered. Each member is paid daily for the number of fish they bring in,” says Johnson.

Denver Baron, Director: Working for Fisheries at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, says the small-scale fisheries cooperative system has been recognised as the best method to fairly distribute wealth amongst members and fishermen.

The Okachowa Fishing Cooperative is one of two cooperatives in the province that have been given small-scale fishing rights for 15 years. According to Baron, the two cooperatives have started making profits.

“The cooperative in Port Nolloth activates commercial fishing rights allocated to it, thereby revitalising the local fishing industry. This is one of the priorities of the Namakwa District Development Model,” says Baron.

Johnson adds that fishing rights help to prevent overfishing, as they limit who can fish, which fish they can catch, what time they can fish and for what purpose.

The lionfish and kelpfish also enable the cooperative’s members to feed their families and members of the community.

“The lobster, lionfish and kelpfish earn money for the fishermen, even though the lobster cannot be sold locally. We catch and transport them while still alive, to Cape Town and China. The permit for consumption also allows members to catch lionfish and kelpfish for food.”

Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister  Nomalungelo Gina, who visited the cooperative recently, says government is committed to creating more opportunities for residents of Port Nolloth.

“This area has the potential to become a vibrant economic powerhouse of the district and the province in general. The main objective is to change the lives of the people for the better,” she adds.