Small-scale fisheries apply to court

Image courtesy: stock.xchng

Image courtesy: stock.xchng

Small-scale fishing communities will have a chance to argue why they should be included in a court matter over fishing rights allocations, the Western Cape High Court ordered on Thursday.

Judge Daniel Dlodlo granted the Masifundise Development Trust, which represents such communities, a chance on June 12 to argue why they should be included as an intervening party in an ongoing matter.

The main application was launched by the SA Commercial Linefish Association (SACLA) after only 115 previous rights holders were included among 215 new line fishing rights allocated last year.

In the previous allocation period, 450 rights were granted.

SACLA’s application is against all 215 fishermen, Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and her former acting deputy director general Desmond Stevens.

The association seeks to have the department’s decision reviewed. It also wants to have two policies that were published, reviewed and set aside.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Masifundise director Mogamad Naseegh Jaffer said the outcome of the main application would have a potential knock-on effect for small-scale fishers.

Masifundise is a non-profit trust that was founded in 1979 and represents previously disadvantaged and traditional fishing communities of the south and west coast of the Western Cape, and coastal villages in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

It wanted to intervene because there “are only so many fish in the sea” and the more fish that were afforded to line fishers, the fewer fish there were available for small-scale fishers.

“And the longer it takes to resolve the present dispute, the longer small scale fishers will have to wait until their rights are properly recognised,” Jaffer stated in his affidavit.

It was his understanding that some rights that were not allocated in the latest process were held back so they could be added to the basket of species available for the implementation of the Small-Scale Fishing Policy (SSFP), which has yet to be implemented.

“[A]lthough the main application is concerned with the rights of commercial line fishers, it will have serious consequences for small scale fishers,” he said.

“It could delay or derail the implementation of the SSFP that Masifundise and its members have fought to have implemented for nearly a decade.”

Masifundise thus wished to be added as a respondent.

Jaffer said their primary concern was that appropriate relief be granted both pending the finalisation of the court’s review of the process, and if the review was successful.

Masifundise took no position on the merits of the main application.

In the meantime, Dlodlo ordered on Thursday that commercial line fishermen who were unsuccessful in their applications for new rights could continue fishing for now.

He extended the two-month exemption granted by the same court in February until there had been a full legal review of the 2013 linefish rights allocation process.

Parallel to proceedings in court, Joemat-Pettersson extended the appeals process for allocations until the end of this month and appointed an independent law firm to advise her on the process.

She said the firm would undertake an urgent independent audit of the rights allocation process to ensure it complied with all relevant policies and legislation.



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