Barbara Creecy | South Africa’s inland fisheries have been neglected for too long

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Barbara Creecy. Photo: Jabu Kumalo

Inland fisheries have so far been neglected despite democratic-era reforms. But that’s about to change, says Minister of Forests, Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy.


Cabinet approval of the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy for implementation unleashes the potential of South Africa’s inland fishery resources to contribute to food security, the creation of jobs and economic development.

At present, South Africa’s inland fisheries are managed in terms of conservation and biodiversity goals and not sufficiently recognized as a livelihood opportunity, source of food security or contributor to the economy. .

While indigenous knowledge relating to traditional and customary fishing culture, gear and governance of common resources is present in some communities and has been adapted to modern circumstances, artisanal fishers have expressed concern that their fishing rights, their traditional and customary fishing practices, as well as contributions to rural livelihoods are not recognized by government and other stakeholders.

Thanks to this policy, the informal and unrecognized activities of artisanal fishermen in inland areas are now formalized.

Although access to other public resources such as marine fisheries, minerals, water and land has so far undergone democratic reform, inland fisheries had been neglected. The absence of a national policy had hampered the sustainable use of this natural resource and the growth of the sector.

As fishing activities are currently regulated by the provincial departments responsible for environmental management under their environmental laws, national and provincial laws will be enacted to provide for permits and authorizations that can be issued to individuals, legal entities or community groups. Inland fishing permits and authorizations will continue to be issued in accordance with provincial environmental laws, ordinances and regulations, while work surrounding the legal framework for inland fishing continues.

The new policy adopts the “ecosystem approach to fisheries” which aims to increase the contribution of fisheries to sustainable development taking into account ecological constraints, such as habitat protection and restoration, pollution reduction and management. waste, sustainable harvesting of fishery resources.

An effective regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector is created and aligned with the constitutional approach to the use of natural resources, and the importance of the artisanal fisheries sub-sector and trade by local communities surrounding the plans indoor public water supply is recognized.

Most artisanal fishermen are impoverished and the role of fishing in their livelihoods is diverse. It ranges from part-time fishing for food to full-time commercial occupation. Because freshwater fish value chains are short with little added value, the fish are typically sold fresh informally or are consumed by the family on the same day.

The successful implementation of this policy is an opportunity for the socio-economic benefits to reach these communities. This includes job creation, improved rural livelihoods, food security, small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) development and economic development based on artisanal fisheries value chains and recreational.

In addition to the need for an integrated multidepartmental and multistakeholder approach to enable the sustainable development of the inland fisheries sector, the need for transformation and growth of value chains related to the inland fisheries sector is addressed while providing the basis for the development of the inland fisheries sector. ‘establishment of dedicated resources and capacities for the sector.

Fishermen can have an impact

The policy goes further by recognizing recreational fishers as important stakeholders in South Africa’s inland fisheries and in future fisheries development initiatives. There are an estimated 1.5 million recreational fishermen in the country, who have a significant economic impact through the tourism sector and related angling supply value chains.

In terms of the new policy, artisanal fishermen living near a body of water of interest will be given priority for the issuance of permits without unfairly discriminating against other resource users.

An efficient and user-friendly registration and authorization system for all categories of resource users will be explored by the Department, in consultation with the National Treasury. The aim is to develop the most affordable permit system and ensure that permit application fees are minimal and affordable, with the possibility of exempting certain categories from payment for fishing permits.

Civil servants from all spheres of government need to be trained to effectively implement the measures necessary to stabilize and develop the sector. Training will also be provided to ensure effective application of the policy and meaningful participation of fishermen in co-management structures.

Barbara Creecy is Minister of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment. The opinions expressed are his own.


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