Vulnerable fishing communities in South Africa were the first to be impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus as far back as February.
This was according to the Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy, responding to Kogelberg fishing community cry for assistance on Mandela Day.
“The small-scale fishers along the coast of our country have been hit hard by the economic and social effects of Covid-19. From as early as February this year, fishing communities were unable to sell their catch in many Asian markets” she said.
Since the lockdown began, the Keogelberg fishing community had faced severe restrictions, unable to fish compounded by the inability to access markets for their catch.
Although fishing was categorized as an essential service under National Lockdown Levels 5 and 4, the community decried requisite PPP made available to them. Over 4 800 face masks were handed to small-scale fishing communities during lockdown the department had confirmed.
The Ministers visit also came after the backdrop of Western Cape fishing co-operatives not formally being recognized in the granting of 15-year fishing rights. This comes after complaints that the process of granting the rights was not improperly.
According to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), the fishing rights would allow a fisherman “a basket of species to either sell to earn a living, or for their own use thus ensuring their food security even handed.”
DEFF said an independent review of verification process was under way to ensure that no small-scale fishers were left out in error. Once registered, the basket will include West Coast Rock Lobster, line fish, Oysters, Mussels, Seaweed, net fish and hake handline.
“Ours is a common struggle for transformation of the fishing industry, sustainable use of marine resources and access to better livelihoods for coastal communities” added Creecy.
The department was also working with the WWF to ensure the marine industry thrived.
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