Relief fund plan could be a lifeline for fishermen

WHILE squid fishermen eagerly await feedback about temporary line-fish permits, environmentalists and leaders in the chokka industry believe there is a better alternative – a relief fund for struggling fishermen, such as farmers receive when agriculture is in trouble.

Two weeks ago parliamentary committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries chairman Lulu Johnson visited Nelson Mandela Bay to address fishermen in the chokka industry about the three-month suspension of squid fishing to help strengthen the population along the Bay.

He said the possibility of granting these fishermen interim permits for line- fish was being considered.

Coastal environment researcher Dr Nadine Strydom, however, believes this would be a step back, as many line-fishermen lost their permits last year due to overfishing along the Bay.

"Allowing squid fishermen to catch line-fish while their industry has been put on hold does not make sense. Are they just giving the permits they took away last year to other people? It would be truly shocking if they approved these."

Chairman for the South African Squid Management Industrial Association Dino Moodaley says this is a tough time for the entire chokka industry, but he supports the decision to suspend squid fishing until July.

"The suspension is hitting us hard. But the industry has been struggling for the past two years.

"Our resources are under pressure and they need time to be revived."

Moodaley is, however, very optimistic about what ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said while campaigning at the same meeting with Johnson two weeks ago.

Sizani mentioned that fishermen should have access to a similar type of relief that farmers receive when agriculture experience a bad season.

Strydom agreed. "A properly managed relief fund for struggling squid fishermen, or any fishermen, should be seriously considered. With proper government involvement it can be more viable than granting interim fishing permits." - Riaan Marais