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Western Cape's Small-Scale Fishers Set to Broaden Their Horizons with New Species Catch Allowances

Published February 28, 2024
3 months ago

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is in the process of revitalizing the small-scale fishing sector in the Western Cape, with plans to authorize the catching of additional species. This strategic policy revision could bolster the livelihoods of local communities while promoting sustainable fishing practices.

In recent consultations with Parliament, Abongile Ngqongwa, the deputy director of small-scale fisheries management, underscored the need for sustainability in the sector. Recognizing the decline in fish resources, he emphasized the department's commitment to supporting the fishers and ensuring the functionality of their cooperatives.

This announcement follows the registration of 62 small-scale fishing cooperatives with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission in the Western Cape. These cooperatives have been waiting with bated breath as the allocation of fishing rights for a 15-year period was finally granted to approximately 3,850 fishers in November 2023, after a prolonged delay due to the resetting of the 2016-19 rights allocation process.

Deputy director-general of fisheries management, Sue Middleton, detailed to Parliament the current species available to small-scale cooperatives, including squid, West Coast rock lobster, seaweed, hake handline, linefish, oysters, and white mussels. However, she revealed that an expansion of the species 'basket' is under consideration, with the department open to suggestions that could further enrich the small-scale fishers' catches.

Recognizing the complexities involved in managing successful cooperatives, the department is launching a three-year mentorship program aimed at equipping fishery cooperatives with essential skills in business and financial management.

The discussion also shed light on past challenges within the sector. MP Hannah Shameema Winkler of the Democratic Alliance criticized the department's previous missteps in fishing rights allocations, which she argued have diminished the trust and integrity perceived by the fishers. Meanwhile, MP Nazier Paulsen of the Economic Freedom Fighters highlighted the importance of mentorship for cooperatives, which often face intricate operational challenges.

Together, these initiatives signal a move towards a more resilient and sustainable small-scale fishing industry in the region, with the department intent on fostering an equitable sharing of resources between small-scale and commercial sectors.

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