Despite fisheries being considered an essential service, subsistence fishermen have fallen through the net, and may not legally catch fish, and by extension feed their families or generate a livelihood under the current Lockdown regulations.
The IFP’s Spokesperson on Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Narend Singh MP, raised this matter during Parliament’s online Joint Meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry & Fisheries, and the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources & Energy.
Singh affirmed that “the individual rights of fishermen and women have been seriously compromised”.
We appeal to the Minister of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, to consider these subsistence fisher-community when looking at gazetting further regulations for National Disaster Levels 4, 3 and 2.
Singh said, “it is imperative that the Minister weigh the rationality of informal traders versus subsistence fisherfolk, who all need to put food on the table”.
The Minister advised the portfolio committee that the MRLA does not currently provide a category to allow for subsistence fisher people – those who fish for their own table and possibly also sell and trade fish. They operate as ‘recreational fishers’, and these activities are not permitted under Lockdown Level 4.
The Department acknowledged that some individuals defined as ‘recreational fishers’ are fishing for food security purposes.
The Minister said that her Department was in discussion with the State Law Advisors and would be making a case to allow for recreational fishing under Level 3.
However, during the portfolio committee meeting, the Department stressed that they could not guarantee access for subsistence fishers under Level 3.
With the countries easing into Level 3 of the lockdown and only possibly being considered for June, thousands of subsistence fishers, already a vulnerable community, are indeed now doubly vulnerable during the COVID-19 epidemic, with no swift relief in sight.
The IFP will continue the fight for legal recognition for subsistence fishermen.
Narend Singh MP
IFP Spokesperson on Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries
083 788 5954