Rights for thousands of fishermen a major turning point for Eastern Cape maritime sector

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Handing over historical fishing rights to 53 rural coastal communities of the Eastern Cape -province –  the single largest group ever, for the first time – were (Left) Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, with (Right) Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development & Agrarian Reform, Ms Nomakhosazana Meth in Mthatha on Friday (06 March 2020)

Pretoria: 10 March 2020

The awarding of fishing permits for the first time ever to more than 4 000 subsistence fishermen in the Eastern Cape at the weekend, along with the launch of the province’s ‘Oceans Economy Masterplan’ marked a major positive economic turning point for one of South Africa’s poorest regions.

This is according to both the province’s government in Bisho as well as national Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy during a function to both launch the province’s maritime economy development masterplan – the first of its kind focused expressly on the sector – as well as the handing over of fishing permits to 53 rural community fishing cooperatives in Mthatha on Friday.

The 53 cooperatives with a total membership of some 4361 members, are part of a group of 78 cooperatives recently formed in the province representing as many as 5335 artisanal rural community fishermen now accorded long term fishing rights spanning a 15 year period.

They join 174 other communities in the country’s three other coastal provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape – who are now official beneficiaries of an amended legislation four years ago that formally recognised fishing needs and rights of subsistence fishing communities in the country’s  rural coastal areas.

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“Today is a special day in the history of the long, long struggle of traditional small fishermen and women. Today is the day we formally hand over 15 year fishing rights to over 4361 individuals organised into 53 cooperatives in the Oliver Tambo, Alfred Ndzo and Amatole Municipalities.

“This is the largest group of small fishermen and women to have ever been given rights anywhere in our country. Today is, indeed, a day to celebrate,” said Ms Creecy during the occasion.

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Ms Barbra Creecy. Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

According to Ms Creecy, this will benefit no less 14 000 members of rural communities members with a food resource, but also an opportunity for business. She added: “The rights being handed over today are free of charge. Coperatives are exempted from paying any fees for the next three seasons.”

In terms of the rights accorded, the rural community fishermen in the area will be allowed to harvest with immediate effect an assortment of fish species ranging from East Coast rock lobster, mussels, seaweed, hake to sardines and some other.

However, the harvesting of some of the allocated fish species will depend on the intended end-utilisation, between self consumption or commercial sales by the cooperatives. In addition, the newly righted rural community cooperatives, in terms of fish harvesting, will be assisted with as many as 20 fishing vessels, to be used interchangebly among them pending a formal promised allocation of commercial fishing rights in the 2021 fishing season.

Ahead of the fishing vessels allocation this year, as budding businesses, the cooperatives will also be assisted with business and financial management training and support through agencies under the Department of Small Business Development as well as the National Skills Fund.

Said Ms Creecy: “The Eastern Cape, as we all know, is blessed with over 800 kilometres of a coastline. Across the world, more and more nations recognise the role our oceans can play in combating poverty, unemployment and creating inclusive growth and jobs in parts of the world where land is overcrowded and degraded.

“Our country in one of many African countries to adopt an oceans economy strategy following the decision by the African Union in 2015 to launch the African Intergrated Maritime Strategy by declaring the following 10 years to 2025 ‘the decade of the African seas’.

“This strategy recognised that African nations rely on the ocean for trade, transport, energy, food, tourism, recreation, and many other goods and services. This means our oceans must be managed responsiblly and cooperatively for the benefit of all African countries.

“Here in OR Tambo, Alfred Ndzo and Amatole District municipalities, the oceans economy masterplan aims to assist our people to take advantage of this unique natural resource by developing infrastructure of both small harbours, promoting tourism by improving facilities include beach access, safety, recreational areas and nature reserves,” she said.

For Ms Creecy’s full remarks, click on the video below

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Ms Nomakhosazana Meth. Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development & Agrarian Reform

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape government, represented by MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Ms Nomakhosaza Meth, described both the handing over of the fishing rights to rural community artisanal fishermen and the launch of the province’s historical ‘Oceans Economy Masterplan’ as a culmination of efforts emanating from the country’s ‘Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy)’ initiative launched in 2014, as well as the provincial government in partnership with stakeholders’ efforts aimed at capitalising on the province’s coastal location, towards enhancement of the region’s economic development.

Over the next 18 years, the province’s plan, developed with the assistance of the Nelson Mandela University, hopes to create no less than 1.8-million jobs deriving from investment projects across nine (9) prioritised subsectors of the maritime economic sector.

Thesr include marine transport and manufacturing, tourism, offshoare oil and gas, tourism, construction, renewable energy, fisheries and acquaculture, communication, desalination and related business economic activities.

“This event marks an important milestone in the policy evolution of the Oceans Economy policy trajectory as a product of an enduring partnership driven by the Eastern Cape Government with tremendous support from the National Department of Forestry and Fisheries and the Nelson Mandela University.

“The combined celebrations to launch of the Eastern Cape Oceans Economy Master Plan and the presentation of 15 years long licenses to the small-scale fisheries sector is a major achievement in the local development  of the nascent  Oceans Economy, indicative of the progress made through aligning of policy to practical implementation of projects,” said the provincial government in a statement.

DSC_9046aAccording to the provincial government, the masterplan comprises four ‘centrepiece’ documents:

  1. a Baseline Study  offering “an analysis of the state of the oceans economy in the Eastern Cape and outline the rationale for the selection of catalytic projects.
  2. a  Research Agenda – intended to “enable decision-makers with reliable data updated information and empirical evidence to make informed decisions.”
  3. a Strategic Road Map  that “sets out the 20 year trajectory and implementation strategy of the Oceans Economy Catalytic Projects.”
  4. a Bid Book – “essentially for mobilizing resources and attracting investments for financing the catalytic portfolio and   funding Oceans Economy Projects.”

For more on this, click on the two videos below. (Please note that MEC Ms Meth’s remarks are entirely in the local language, isiXhosa).

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Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. SAMSA

The South African Maritime Safety (SAMSA) both applauded the development as well as pledged its ongoing support through standard services it offers in terms of its legislated mandate involving ensuring the safety of property and life at sea, guarding jealously against the degradation of the oceans natural environment through prevention of polution of the seas by ships, as well as promoting South Africa’s maritime interests.

SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, among other things, formally announced the establishment recently of a SAMSA office in the Wild Coast town of Port St Johns.

He also reported on progress being achieved with the agency’s Maritime Youth Development Programme (MYDP) which has already impacted that part of the country positively over the last three years through creation of hundreds of employment opportunities for local youth in the world’s cruiseliner business. He also spoke on the agency’s involvement in the country’s fishing vessels’ recapitalisation programme, as well as SAMSA’s rural communities maritime economic development programme which includes marine tourism development.

Fishermen’s welfare, be it in the commerical or hitherto informal subsistence sector. is primary to SAMSA’s objectives and goals and is recognised worldwide, hence South Africa became the world’s first country to both adopt and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 188, in 2018.

As recently as five months ago, the country, an active member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), hosted a week long workshop for five East Asian countries that needed assistance and guidance on the implementation of the ILO’s C188.

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks, click on the video below.

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