Angry fishermen stage protest

Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff

Quotas favour large companies, say community operators

Protesting fishermen used rope to barricade themselves in the foyer of a government building in Cape Town yesterday to draw attention to their grievances.

The group of about 60‚ mostly from fishing communities in the southern peninsula‚ tied the front door entrance of the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries closed‚ insisting on a meeting with the minister, Senzeni Zokwana.

The protesters shouted and slammed their fists against a metal detector at the front reception‚ prompting security personnel to intervene.

The group dispersed after handing over a memorandum to officials in the absence of the minister‚ who is in China.

A follow-up meeting with Zokwana has been scheduled for next week.

Several protesters said fishing communities were struggling to survive due to the department’s recent fishing quota allocations‚ which they claimed favoured large companies at the expense of new entrants.

The group also claims to have been routinely ignored by senior officials‚ including Zokwana‚ despite the department’s professed development agenda.

“It is a sad reality that many South African government departments only react when communities are at the end of their tether and forced to resort to acts of civil disobedience and public unrest to have their voices heard‚” the memorandum said.

The department had also failed to implement the long-awaited small-scale fishing policy‚ as per an Equality Court order several years ago‚ the memorandum said.

In the interim, several communities had largely been excluded from commercial fishing rights allocations.

“We no longer believe or trust your department and officials, who continually mislead communities into believing that there is relief in sight‚” the memorandum said.

South African United Fishing Front (SAUFF) spokesman Pedro Garcia said the protest was also prompted by the latest west coast rock lobster allocations‚ which favoured established companies at the expense of traditional fishing communities.

“Communities are tired. This is no longer a fight about rights‚ it is now turning into a fight for survival‚” Garcia said.

The SAUFF is calling for a coastal buffer zone for exclusive use by traditional fishing communities. The organisation also wants a ban on lobster traps, which it claims are destroying the natural marine environment and destroying valuable fish stocks.

“Fish are moving further afield‚ out of the reach of local fishermen‚” Garcia said.

“The DAFF needs to come to the party.

“They can’t keep saying they have a development approach and talk about restoring rights when there is every indication that they are marginalising the small guys even further.”

Zokwana’s spokesman, Steve Galane, said the minister intended to meet the protesters when he returned next week.

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