South Africa's coast and its marine resources provide enormous benefits in meeting basic needs and improving the welfare of all South Africans. The value of direct benefits provided by coastal and marine resources includes direct employment in the fishing industry, which has been estimated at 29 000 people, many of them from impoverished coastal communities. A further 60 000 people are estimated as being employed in related industries. While the fishing industry is of great economic importance to South Africa, the protection of the coastal and marine ecosystems as an integral element of maintaining biodiversity is equally important.


Over the past ten years, the fishing industry has had to weather many crises. Despite this, however, Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) has amassed a number of significant achievements, including the following:


         The adoption of a new approach to the management of marine resources in South Africa over the last ten years, which has resulted in the transformation of the industry.


         The fishing industry has been restructured in order to address historical imbalances and to achieve equity within the industry. The numerous initiatives launched by MCM (such as the development of new fisheries) have addressed these imbalances, reflected in the fact that today, blacks or black- controlled entities hold 66% of all fishing rights


         The allocation of medium-term and long-term fishing rights.


         The establishment of a successful abalone aquaculture industry on the Cape's southern coast.


         The difficulties faced by poverty-stricken fishing communities have been recognised and responded to, in number of initiatives by the department, including:


        The repair and upgrading of fishing harbours.


        A draft policy on aquaculture.


        The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has recently announced interim relief measures for fishers (not in possession of commercial fishing licences) along the western and southern Cape coasts. These measures will enable them to catch specified limits of certain fish and shellfish species. It should be noted that these measures are temporary and will be terminated when the Department's policies on subsistence and small-scale commercial fisheries have been finalised.


Notwithstanding the significant progress made thus far, the issue of equitable access to marine resources In South Africa remains a complicated and emotional issue, further compounded by the past economic, social and political imbalances that have characterised the South African fishing industry.

Within the subsistence fishing sector for example, problems are being experienced on the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal coasts. Communities dependent on subsistence fishing and harvesting in the Pondoland, St Lucia and Maputaland areas face an uncertain future as these are protected areas and questions are now being asked about the wisdom of continuing to allow the exploitation of these areas.

The Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape poses a particular problem as the Haven Hotel is the biggest employer in the area, and it has been severely impacted upon by the 'no fishing rule'. The local community (which owns the hotel) claims that, since its visitors can no longer engage in recreational angling, hotel occupancy rates have dwindled. The community is proposing a limited form of subsistence and recreational fishing, with no fish caught by recreational anglers allowed to be sold or removed from the reserve. While the hotel management and the community are adamant that a limited form of fishing should be allowed on socio-economic and equity grounds, scientists have warned that the local coastline has been "extremely depleted" of both inshore and offshore species and that the "no take" policies of this Marine Protected Area should be continued. The Department has not yet taken a decision on this problematic issue.

Discontent and frustration continues to plague the commercial fishing industry, as many SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) often lose the battle to obtain the fishing rights that they have applied for. This is sometimes inevitable, as it has to be acknowledged that demand will continue to outstrip supply as South Africa's marine resources are finite and remain under pressure. The Department is thus faced with the unenviable task of attempting to balance the need to protect South Africa's finite marine resources with the need to promote social justice, equity and transformation in the face of continuing poverty, unemployment and a legacy of unequal access to marine resources.

In many other instances, small-scale fishers are frustrated in their attempts to set up sustainable businesses by a lack of access to finance, and a lack of knowledge of the procedures for applying for such finance. A recent visit by members of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism to the Eastern Cape to identify the grievances of fishermen in Jeffery's Bay and Humansdorp, made it clear that the lack of access to finance was hampering their attempts to buy fishing boats, establish co-operatives and thereby set up sustainable businesses.

Given the problems of access that continue to plague the industry, it is clear that poor fishing communities and small-scale commercial fishing companies need assistance over and above that already provided by. MCM. This additional assistance is needed so that they can firstly, establish viable businesses and secondly, keep their businesses sustainable in the long term. Without such assistance, poor fishing communities will remain marginalised, unable to access the benefits of a transformed industry.


Within the context outlined above, and based on an acknowledgement of the finite nature of South Africa's dwindling marine resources, the Portfolio Committee needs to consider proposing the following actions to the Department:


         That MCM investigates the possibility of establishing an agency that could facilitate the provision of funding and/or subsidies to SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) in the fishing sector. The work of this agency will be closely informed by scientific expertise on the state of South Africa's marine resources and the need to ensure that its actions are determined by the principles of sustainable harvesting.


         That MCM applies this proposal to the mariculture industry as well, as this is an industry that is confronted by similar problems. Poor communities and small-scale entrepreneurs wishing to access this industry will also need financial assistance to set up the infrastructure needed (viz. hatcheries. fingerlings and other start-up, operating and maintenance costs) to enter and successfully operate in, the industry.



         Small-scale and subsistence fishing communities:


- MCM has been committed to the annual development of three new fisheries since 2004, yet only two had been launched by late 2006 (viz. octopus and white mussel).11 What additional progress has been made since then? Given the widespread poverty among small scale and subsistence fishing communities and the consequent need for urgency, what are the reasons for the slow pace of progress in the developmel'\,t of new fisheries?


- What additional socio-economic interventions have been planned by MCM to assist poor fishing communities hard hit by factors such as lack of access to fishing quotas: dwindling marine resources; poaching; and fish migration due to the changing Benguela current on the West coast?


- What is the future of subsistence fishing in protected areas? Have any studies being carried out to evaluate the impact of these activities?


- How will the issue with regard to subsistence harvesting by poor communities and limited recreational angling by hotel visitors in the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape be handled?


- Are the obstacles in the path of small-scale fishing companies wishing to expand their operations adequately addressed in the new regulations on the allocation and management of small-scale commercial and medium-term subsistence fishers?


- What are the main problems being highlighted in the submissions on the draft policies and how does the Department intend to respond to these?


- With regard to the employment of Catch Monitors in fishing communities under the new regulations, what type of training programme will these Monitors undergo and how will their effectiveness be evaluated?


- Will any entrepreneurship skills training be offered in order to ensure the commercial success of these ventures?


- Is an evaluation process in place, which monitors the success and difficulties of the small-scale and subsistence fishing permitting process?

         Transformation / Empowerment


- Have all remaining obstacles to applications for fishing rights by small black fishing companies (such as high application fees, lengthy application forms) been addressed? If yes, has this resulted in a more accessible application process? If not, what is the timeframe for interventions in this regard? Are there any other obstacles faced by (SMMEs) in applying for fishing rights? How is the Department assisting SMMEs in this regard?


- With regard to black economic empowerment, how are historically disadvantaged individuals being assisted to gain access to capital?


- Is the issue of gender receiving specific attention? That is, is the socia-economic status of women, and their progress at the various levels in the industry being monitored?


         Environmental education


- The principle of sustainabllity is an integral element of the fishing rights allocation process. It is inevitable, however, that declining stocks and the need for sustainable harvesting will at times result in a decline in the number of allocations that can be made. Has MCM embarked on a process of environmental education of roleplayers in the industry (especially small-scale and subsistence fishers), so that they understand and accept the environmental rationale behind any decrease in allocations? If yes, provide details - for example, does this process take place in the language of the communities? If no, are there plans for such a programme, and by what date will it be in place?