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Small-scale Fishermen a Step Closer to Obtaining Rights

20 August 2013

SOUTH AFRICA - The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson made three key announcements at the Post-Cabinet media briefing in Pretoria. Addressing journalists, the Minister explained key Cabinet announcements pertaining to the approval of the passing of the Marine Living Resources Bill, 2013. The Bill will make it possible for small-scale fishers to obtain fishing rights and regain their livelihoods.

The significance of this Bill is two-fold. Firstly, the current Marine Living Resources Act, 1998, does not recognise small-scale fishers. Therefore, passing the Bill will ensure the inclusion and recognition of small-scale fishers into the economy of fishing, re-establishing the economies of fishing communities.

If passed, the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill, 2013 will conclude a very challenging, complex
and lengthy policy process. It took the State and fishing communities almost five years to finalise the policy.

Fisheries falls within the legislative competency of the national sphere of government and is regulated in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998.

There is currently no legal framework to implement the Policy for the Small-scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa. Hence, the promulgation of the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill, 2013 that will enable the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to allocate small-scale fishing rights and in a substantial manner, transform the inequalities of the past fisheries system. 

If passed, the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill will recognise small-scale fishing and enable the allocation of fishing rights to identified small-scale fishing communities who have previously been excluded from the commercial fishing rights allocation process in South Africa.

Minister Joemat-Pettersson said: “This is the first time in the history of the fishing industry that we are amending the MLRA. This is both historic and significant because it outlines our commitment to making fishing inclusive to all who participate in the sector. Small-scale fishing communities were and still are extremely prejudiced by the previous commercial fishing rights allocation process as a large percentage of the fishing communities did not receive any fishing rights. This current state of affairs has resulted in small-scale fishing communities facing high levels of abject poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. Many of us are aware of violent outbreaks at historical fishing communities like Hawston. Poaching, drugs and crime have come to characterise coastal communities as fishermen find it difficult to access fish and earn a legitimate living.”

Passing the Bill will result in the creation of job opportunities for the entire value chain of fishing communities, from actual fishing, the processing of the fish and many other related practices.

The South African fishing industry contributes R5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product and employs thousands of people.

TheFishSite News Desk

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