While fishermen across the globe celebrated World Fisheries Day on Monday November 20, the Mitchell’s Plain Fishermen’s Forum says it can’t catch a break.
They have been challenging the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) since 2013 about the Small Scale Fisheries Interim Relief list, under which beneficiaries on the list are entitled to a R12000 stipend for the year and which allows them a limited catch.
According to the small scale fisheries verification criteria applicable in the determination of the eligibility of small scale fishers, applicants need to have been personally involved in traditional fishing for at least 10 years, and or be totally dependant on the marine living resources for a living; should not be active in the commercial fishing sector, including being part of a full-time crew or have any other form of permanent employment including being employed as a contract worker for more than six months; have to live within a fishing community as per the list; and applicants earning a government grant will not be accommodated in the dispensation.
Pensioners may be included but they must be involved in fishing.
Small scale fisheries exemption holders in possession of recreational permits may not use their recreational permits to target species listed under the small scale exemption; and only one person per household or family is allowed to hold interim relief exemption.
Bridgette Oppelt, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Fishermen’s Forum, said none of their members is on the list and all live a hand-to-mouth existence.
“These fishermen are looking at a black Christmas,” she said.
“No one has heard the plea of the fishermen of Mitchell’s Plain.”
Ms Oppelt said the forum had been invited to attend the department’s celebration in Saldanha Bay on Monday but had not been able to cover the transport costs.
The forum, established in 2011, aims to ensure that all partners and beneficiaries are informed and able to participate in advising on processes pertaining to the implementation of fisheries policies and projects in the Mitchell’s Plain region.
The forum wants the department to interrogate the current interim relief list because they say people have either died and their family members are benefiting or they do not live in Mitchell’s Plain.
Similarly, they doubt the number of years people on the list have been living from the sea as per the specifications of the verification criteria.
Last month they met with representatives of the department, officially disputing the list, saying that 20 names on the list of 47 people, dated 2013/2014 were not from Mitchell’s Plain.
The Plainsman met with forum members in Portland on Thursday November 16, where they shared the challenges of feeding their families and trying to stay afloat financially.
Michael Arendse, 52, from Tafelsig, who lives with his wife, two children and four grandchildren, told the Plainsman that on Thursday November 9 he earned R80; on Friday November 10 R20; nothing on Saturday November 11; on Sunday November 12 R60; and on Monday November 13 R90. This brings his week’s earnings to R250.
Two years ago when his grandson died, Mr Arendse was forced to seek help from Ms Oppelt to bury him.
“Fishing is not a steady income. You get paid for the work you do,” he said.
He has been living off the sea for 25 years and his late father was also a fisherman. Small scale fishermen only go to sea when the weather permits.
Mr Arendse was one of about 10 men on a hired skipper’s boat, which has half of the income and the expenses – including diesel and bait – split among the men while the boat owner takes 50% of the day’s
These expenses exclude possible transportation, to fish away from home and accommodation if they go far.
Fernal Roos, from Tafelsig, said there were fewer fish in the sea.
“Die vis is nie soos dit gewees het nie,” he said.
Mr Roos said irrespective of quotas and seasonal fish, catches were limited.
The Policy for the Small Scale Fisheries Sector, gazetted in 2012, states in Section 4.1.3 that the department is mindful that small scale fishers may not have been able to
access social security schemes in the past.
It says to ensure that small scale fishers who belong to a community-based legal entity are catered for within the government social security net, the department will facilitate the process of ensuring that appropriate mechanisms are established.
“The department is aware that small scale fishing communities may need relief or assistance where disasters, whether through natural or human causes, pose a threat or cause death, injury or disease, or disrupt the life of a community. The department must establish mechanisms to deal with such an eventuality arising and ensure that provision is made for fishing communities to access disaster relief or assistance under appropriate circumstances,” the section reads.
At the time of going to print, DAFF failed to respond to a Plainsman media enquiry sent on Friday November 17.
On Monday November 20, officials said they were busy with the annual World Fisheries Day celebration in Saldanha Bay and would not be able to respond in time.
The Plainsman will publish their comment when we receive it.