History made as SA’s first small-scale fisheries co-ops launched

Friday, September 28, 2018

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 linefish and rock lobster – on their own terms. 

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has 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 received basic training on cooperatives and they have been assisted to registered cooperatives for the purpose of applying for 15-year fishing rights. 

In an interview with SAnews ahead of the launch, 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]. 

“Young kids will not sit around the streets not knowing what to do. We are creating an avenue that [makes] it is good to stay close to the ocean. You don’t only listen to the sounds of the waves, but you are part of those who are [utilising its] resources,” he said. 

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 individuals small-scale fishers. 

Zokwana said the fishing rights gives local fishermen dignity and turns them from fishing illegally to doing so under protected rights. 

“One thing it gives them is dignity to fish knowing that they have the right to exploit the [fishing opportunity], to make sure that they get money and create a system that will be able to curb the scourge of illegal fishing. 

“Our people have been turned into illegal fishers because there was no system that was guiding 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…” 

Fishing for jobs

At the official launch of the small-scale fisheries cooperatives at the Port Nolloth town hall later in the morning, Zokwana said local fishermen should not allow big players to use their fishing rights. 

He said in the next round of fishing rights applications, efforts will be made to ensure that resources that are caught in Port Nolloth waters are processed in the town so that more jobs can be created. 

Morgan Johnson, a local fisherman and the chairperson of the Port Nolloth cooperative, said 75 households will benefit from the fishing rights. 

The launch, Johnson said, marked an end of a fishing rights application journey that went on for 11 years. 

He said the cooperative was made up of local fishermen, including women and young people. 

The board of the cooperative, Johnson said, 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 out the small-scale fishing rights policy. In Hondeklipbaai, it 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. – SAnews.gov.za