Fishers’ voices heard

2019-10-15 06:01
Community members shared their concerns at the Hout Bay Fishing Communities stakeholder meeting held on Thursday 10 October in Hangberg.PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

Community members shared their concerns at the Hout Bay Fishing Communities stakeholder meeting held on Thursday 10 October in Hangberg.PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

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The announcement made by the minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, Barbara Creecy, that small-scale fishing rights would be allocated to those who qualified by December was met with silence broken by a single “kwaai” at the Hout Bay Fisheries Stakeholders meeting on Thursday 10 October.

Two hours earlier the hall at the Sports and Recreation Centre in Hangberg was reverberating with the voices of fishermen and women, competing for a chance to share their grievances and concerns with the minister. Many expressed their anger at all of the empty promises made by former ministers responsible for this portfolio.

“Ons het niks (We have nothing),” was a sentence often heard as members of the fishing community described the suffering they and their children endured.

Stepping up to the podium, Creecy admitted fisheries was not in a good state, referring to the existence of prima facie evidence of wrongdoing in the department and the fact that eight officials were facing criminal charges.

“It is not going to be easy to turn this ship around, but I’m sure with your help we can succeed,” Creecy said.

With regards to the pending allocation of small-scale fishing rights, she cautioned those who had interim fishing relief rights not to sell them.

“Some of you have unfortunately already sold your interim relief for this year. It wasn’t a good decision, because you can’t have interim relief and rights. So we will have to have a transitional arrangement.”

Creecy’s statement that she would appoint an internal audit unit to investigate the small-scale fishing rights application process did elicit cheers from the crowd.

“In the Western Cape, 10 000 people applied for the small fishing policy; only 2 500 qualified. That does not seem to be right. Some of you have raised the fact that you have been forced into illegal activities because you can’t engage in legal activities. We can all agree that if you can’t go through the front door, you are going to go through the window.”

Sue Middleton, acting deputy director-general: fisheries, said they were still working on the logistics of the internal audit, but that it too had to be completed by December. Further details would be communicated soon through the local press.

V To page 3.

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