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In an address at KwaSokhulu, near Richards Bay to coincide with Heritage day – which falls on Monday – Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, said many coastal communities remained below the poverty line and the government was working to legally recognise small-scale fishing communities. This was to ensure that their tradition of fishing and related economic activities were legally compliant and supported by the government.
“I noted the importance of addressing this issue of communities not having legal access to marine resources for their customary, traditional practices, economic benefit, and food security and vowed to ensure the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy is under way,” said Zokwana in his speech released by the department yesterday (Thurs).
Zokwana said the law had been changed to recognise the small-scale fisheries sector. The establishment of the sector had been ignited by the amendment of the Marine Living Resource Act (MLRA) to recognise that there are small-scale fishers in the country.
In the 48 fishing communities in KZN, 4085 individual people had been registered and verified against set criteria.
“Appeals for those who have been provisionally unsuccessful were opened and closed on the August 8. I instructed the department to avail officials to go to all these villages and assist people who want to appeal,” said Zokwana.
He said the department was in the process of assessing all the appeals.
Once the department had recognised small-scale fishers per small-scale fishing community in KZN, it would mobilise the fishers to form one co-operative per community. They would be assisted with the registration of the co-operatives and given basic training on the functioning of a co-operative, including roles and responsibilities. This is envisaged to take place between October and December 2017 this year.
Registered co-operatives would then be helped to apply for a small-scale fishing right between January and March next year.
Zokwana said some of the aims in establishing this sector were to uplift fishing communities by providing support mechanisms; create a sustainable, equitable, small-scale fishing sector; promote the interests of women, disabled and child-headed households; secure the well-being and livelihood of small-scale fishing communities; maintain the health of marine ecosystems.
He said his department would take responsibility for ensuring fisheries compliance and monitoring in the province. “We are tirelessly working to ensure that staff capacity is boosted and visibility is improved to decisively deal with the issue of illegal fishing for the sake of protecting marine resources for small-scale fishing communities.”