Policy to empower fishermen

4 March 2005

The government has published a new set of draft fisheries policies for public comment. The policies cover the allocation of long-term commercial fishing rights worth an estimated R70-billion, and aim both to empower previously disadvantaged fishermen and to boost the country’s fishing industry.

The draft policies are available in four languages – Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu and English – and include considerations applicable to the entire industry as well as separate policies for each of SA’s 19 different fishing sectors.



“All stakeholders and interested parties are encouraged to consider the draft policies and then submit comment on them”, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told journalists in Cape Town this week.

People have until 11 April to comment on the draft policies. Once all comments have been received and evaluated, a final set of policies will be announced.



‘Geographical justice’
The allocation of long-term fishing rights is estimated to be worth approximately R70-billion over the 8- to 15-year period that the rights are to be allocated for.

Van Schalkwyk said there were South Africans who, despite having played a crucial role in the development of the country’s fishing industry, still had nothing of value to show for it.

“In some instances these families did not only work for meagre salaries, they also lost what they had for generations”, Van Schalkwyk said.

Van Schalkwyk said that it was important that there be a sense of “geographical justice” to the allocation of long-term fishing rights. “Apart from the large companies that operate mostly out of the bigger cities and commercial centres, there are also remote fishing villages and fishers that are found along the entire South African coastline that depend on commercial fishing.

“From tomorrow onwards and for the rest of the month, two teams of staff from the department will engage fishing communities on these draft policies, from as far north as Port Nolloth going right round our coast to northern KwaZulu-Natal.”

‘Not all applicants will succeed’
Although new entrants might be accommodated to replace those fishing rights holders that have failed to use their rights, to comply with the law or to transform, the minister emphasised that not all applicants for fishing rights would succeed.

“People should know right from the outset that we do not have enough stocks of fish to allocate a fishing right to each and every applicant”, Van Schalkwyk said. “It is important that South African fish stocks are carefully managed to avoid over-exploitation.”

In determining the amount of fish to be allocated, the department would be guided by the best scientific data available, the minister said.

“People should therefore not have unrealistic expectations that the allocation of these fishing rights will address all socio-economic challenges in fishing communities.”

He added that, since 1994, the industry had grown from under 400 to almost 4 000 fishing rights holders, reflective of the significant growth rate in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector of the industry. Around 70% of all rights are in the hands of SMEs.

Currently, some 66% of all fishing rights vest in companies that are majority black-owned and managed. This contrast with the skewed situation of less than one percent black-owned and zero percent black management before 1994.

Because of the difficulties faced in the traditional linefish sector, particularly because of the number of collapsed linefish stocks, the draft policy for this sector will be released at a later stage, Van Schalkwyk said.

Planned interventions
Planned interventions outlined in the policies include:

  • Establishing registered crew lists for the traditional line-fish, squid and hand-line hake fisheries, with the aim of creating opportunities or up to 1 000 more fishers in these sectors. 
  • Making it possible for SMEs to progress, for example, from fishing for west coast rock lobster near shore to fishing for west coast rock lobster off-shore. 
  • Making it possible for SMEs to compete in areas where they have traditionally struggled due to capital entry requirement – such as fishing for deep sea hake, horse mackerel, Patagonian Tooth fish and south coast rock lobster. In such areas, 10% of rights will be reserved for emerging SMEs and 10% to reward transformation. 
  • Allocating rights to individual pickers in the oyster sector, to enable them to sell to the highest bidder. 
  • Besides the black economic empowerment criteria of equity ownership and management, genuine schemes that allow employees to hold equity in companies will be one criterion in the allocations process.

Van Schalkwyk said his department had made a special effort to ensure that the process of applying for fishing rights was as simple as possible, with assistance available from a dedicated help centre.

To ensure a fair and open process, he added, independent forensic auditors had already been contracted to scrutinise both officials and applicants.

The minister also warned fishing communities against “so-called consultants” who claim to have an inside track or influence in the process. “Any claim like that is simply not true”, Van Schalkwyk said.

How to submit comments

Comments on the draft policies can be sent by e-mail to RVU@deloitte.co.za (Attention: The Deputy Director-General, Fishery Policy Comments), or by fax to (021) 670-1782 (Attention: The Deputy Director-General, Fishery Policy Comments).


Comments can also be posted to:

Attention: Mr Horst Kleinschmidt

The Deputy Director-General

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

P.O Box 44963



Fishery Policy Comments


Comments can also be delivered by hand to:

Attention: The Deputy Director-General

The Rights Verification Unit

11 Landsdown Road


Fishery Policy Comments


Queries on submitting comments can be directed to the Rights Verification Unit at (021) 670-3669.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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