Small-scale fishers to form cooperative

Faeez Poggenpoel, a small-scale fisherman from Kalk Bay, speaks to Mitchell’s Plain fishers about a prospective constitution for a cooperative.

Mitchell’s Plain small-scale fishers are planning to form a cooperative to represent their interests in dealings with the state.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is due to release an audited list of fishers who were unsuccessful last year in making the registered list.

Mitchell’s Plain Fishermen’s Forum chairwoman Bridgette Oppelt said they had 76 small-scale fishers, 37 of whom had been successful and the rest had to be reviewed by an independent auditor.

These artisanal, or small-scale, fishers traditionally caught fish to put food on their tables and those of their neighbours. They have limited capital, own relatively small fishing vessels, if any, and make short fishing trips close to shore, mostly for local consumption.

Representatives from other fishing communities who have started the process of registering a cooperative shared information with Mitchell’s Plain fishers, at a meeting in Portland last Friday.

According to the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) of 1998 communities wishing to be recognised as small-scale fishers must register their interest with the department, which then checks they meet the criteria.

Fisher Oleander Oakes, from Portland, said they wanted to be prepared when the department came to register the cooperative.

“We as Mitchell’s Plain will have many more meetings because we want to sort ourselves out first and then we can speak with one voice, when the department comes,” she said.

Fisher Jakobus Swart, from Beacon Valley, asked whether his grandchildren would benefit from the cooperative.

“I am already old, but I want to make sure my children and family are taken care of,” he said.

Another fisher, Frank Lewin, from Beacon Valley, who had been fishing for many years asked why his registration was unsuccessful.

Facilitator Faeez Poggenpoel, a small-scale fisherman from Kalk Bay, said he did not know how the department registered fishers but that they should be informed about their rights.

“Every South African has the right to understand public policy and regulations. So, we came together as concerned fishing communities to share information in preparation for the registration.”

The department, in the minutes of a meeting held at its Foreshore office, stipulated that there would be one cooperative per community. The department will be amending the MLRA in its entirety from 2022.

A cooperative must have at least 20 members, who have an equal say in what it caught, how it is processed and dispatched.

Interested fishers must submit copies of their ID, proof of address and three potential names for their cooperative.