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South Africa : Don’t Repeat Others Mistakes

(Afrique du Sud: ne répétez pas les erreurs des autres)

Chandrika SHARMA

02 / 1998

Excerpts, given below, from an open letter to the Government of South Africa highlight some critical issues of concern in the new White Paper on South Africa Marine Fisheries.

The White Paper sets out to right the wrongs and injustices of the past, and is a serious attempt to establish a basis for the sustainable and equitable development of South Africa’s fisheries resources. Its particular emphasis on intergenerational equity and long-term sustainability; the allocation of access rights in a fair and equitable manner; and the redistribution of income and employment opportunities in favour of the poor are important


However, some of the reform proposals raise serious issues of concern. In our view, the highly idealistic goals that the White Paper sets out to achieve are contradicted by several of the actual reform mechanisms detailed in the text. In particular:

We are concerned that the new fisheries policy makes no mention of restoring the fishing access or livelihood rights of the artisanal fishworkers, of which they were forcibly deprived in the 1970s. Criminalized under the apartheid regime and branded as poachers, categorized today as `subsistence fishermen’, the artisanal fishworkers’ livelihood rights are still severely curtailed.

The reference to artisanal fishermen as `subsistence fishermen’ recognizes only their subsistence rights. The conditions set out in the White Paper, under which artisanal fishermen have to operate, deny them their rights to fully engage in their traditional way of life, to benefit from equal access to resources, and prejudices their rights to equal employment and income opportunities. These are serious shortcomings, and unless addressed, the stated ideals of the new fisheries policy to broaden participation in the fishery and to allow greater access to

resources by those who have been denied access previously, will remain utopian.

It is also of concern that the White Paper states that "non-reliable information is available with regard to employment in the subsistence sector". We feel that this is tantamount to denying the existence of this important sector and the rights of its members to participate in the fishery.

The emphasis of the White Paper on `real rights’, which can be purchased through a transparent and competitive process against payment of an appropriate fee, is also a cause for concern. Such quota allocation systems have disenfranchised artisanal fishermen in many other parts of the world, where Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ)systems have concentrated access rights and ownership of quotas in the hands of a few large companies. There are other, more equitable ways of allocating quotas and establishing access rights, for example, through

Territorial User Rights and Community Allocated Quotas.

We would like to suggest that, while it is both desirable and fair that stakeholders who share in the wealth of the seas should contribute in some way to the management and regulation of marine resources, there are ways of recouping management and administration costs other than through the payment of fees.

For example, the White Paper highlights the participation of local communities in resource management (Section 3.8). Co-management provides a mechanism through which administration and management costs can be shared with stakeholder groups. Allocating resource access through a fee-paying mechanism immediately introduces a bias in favour of the haves.

In our view, the White Paper makes the fundamental mistake of confusing fishermen with fishing capacity. By placing greater emphasis on the small-scale sector, and by the judicious selection of technology, we feel that it will be possible to restructure the fishery in ways that provide greater employment opportunities.

In this regard, we also feel that there is insufficient importance given to selectivity and diversity of fishing gears, and that a combination of seasonality, selectivity, capital and labour can be used to reduce fishing effort while increasing income and employment opportunities for disadvantaged sectors. These aspects, together with the establishment of an exclusive fishing zone within the 110-fathom depth contour for the artisanal sector, should be given greater emphasis.


poisson, gestion des ressources naturelles, pêcheur

, Afrique du Sud


The post-apartheid regime in South Africa is in the process of finalizing its fishery management policies. It is seeking to correct the wrongs of the past by promoting equitable access to marine resources, particularly of non-white groups who had been denied access to these resources under the apartheid regime. These objectives are certainly laudable.

However, it is important that the government pay equal attention to the interests of the non-white economically marginalised sections, termed `subsistence fishers’, who have depended on fisheries for their livelihood for decades. Their right to a livelihood from fishing must be recognised through the adoption of appropriate fishery management policies.

Privatizing fishery resources, through systems such as the ITQ, will work against the social and economic interests of these marginalised groups.


Articles et dossiers

O'RIORDAN, Brian, Don't repeat others' mistakes in. Samudra Report, 1998/01, 19

ICSF (International Collective in Support of Fishworkers) - 27 College Road, Chennai 600006, INDIA - Tel. (91) 44-2827 5303 - Fax (91) 44-2825 4457 - Inde - - icsf (@)

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