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24 Apr 2024

Fisherfolk rally to reclaim access to beachfront piers for fishing

Andile Sithole (Southlands Sun) Picture: Andile Sithole. In a bid to reclaim their traditional fishing grounds, KwaZulu-Natal's subsistence fisherfolk are gearing up for a peaceful march next month.

Subsistence fisherfolk in KwaZulu-Natal are expected to embark on a peaceful march early next month in a bid to reclaim their traditional fishing grounds in most of the Durban beachfront piers. Struggling to sustain their livelihoods and provide for their families, these subsistence fisherfolk said they are battling to fish for their livelihood and to put food on the table for their families.

According to the South Durban Environmental Alliance (SDEA), fisherfolk have been banned access to most of the Durban beachfront piers since their renovation for the Soccer World Cup, and they have never been allowed back since.

The chairperson of the KZN Subsistence Fisherfolk Forum said, “Pier fishing is regarded as a poor man’s boat, allowing them to cast their lines into deeper waters beyond the back line, enabling a variety of fish to be caught. This gives fisherfolk an opportunity to catch fish and take them home rather than leaving empty-handed. “Currently, fisherfolk only have access to fish at Snake Park Pier. However, when the tide is out, there is not much water around the pier, but rather, it is sanded. Then when the tide is in, the water bashes over the pier, posing a threat to one’s safety and also drenching fisherfolk as well as washing away their belongings.”

Oil and gas project officer for SDEA, Janeira Reddy, said, “Fisherfolk have had many engagements with officials, but the main reason for not allowing them on the pier is that these piers are reserved for tourism. At night, there are security guards guarding these piers to prevent any fisherfolk from gaining access – they are treated like criminals.
“We therefore urge the relevant authorities to please consider the needs of our poor, destitute fisherfolk who are reliant on catching fish to feed their families and to earn a living to sustain their livelihoods.
“We are aware of the presence of bathers and surfers who also use this part of the ocean, and we respect that. Therefore, we are requesting that the piers should be opened for fishing from sunset to sunrise, whereby no swimming and surfing is conducted.”

The SDCEA and the KZN Subsistence Fishing Forum have therefore decided to engage in peaceful protests in a bid to gain access to the beachfront piers. The Fisherfolks’ March will take place on May 1 at 08:30 from Suncoast Promenade to Durban Amphitheatre. All fisherfolk who want to fight the struggle are welcome to join.