In a desperate bid to force the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) into issuing interim relief permits for small scale fishing, a group of fishermen stormed the department’s offices, essentially bringing operations to a standstill. Headed by Coastal Link South Africa and the Masifundise Development Trust, the group handed over a memorandum accusing the department of mismanagement in the issuance of permits, also demanding the implementation of better small-scale fishing policies.
The move comes after the start of the lucrative crayfish season, which serves as the main source of income for many local fishermen. The seasons officially opened on the 25th November, but by Thursday no permits had been issued.
Masifundise director Naseegh Jaffer said the ‘exemption permits’ were in effect as a result of a court ruling in 2005, meaning government was obligated to issue them. The permits are however mainly aimed at those seeking to conduct crayfish fishing.
“The problem really is that the crayfish season is 5 to 6 months long. Outside of that season people can line fish, but the most money they can make is through crayfish. This is also the time of year that most people need that income,” he explained.
He was critical of the fact that even though the department was well aware of when the season opened, they had still managed to delay the permits.
“The season was already open and government did not listen to our requests to issue permits on time. So we went and we occupied (the department building), because it was a sense of desperation,” he said.
The action seemed to have been somewhat successful according to him, with government reportedly starting the process of distributing permits the very next day.
Despite this, Jaffer stressed that such incidents were taking its toll on the fishermen, with those unable to receive legal permission often resorting to poaching.
“We have to accept that for small scale fishermen, fishing is the only source of income. They do not make a living from anything else,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)