Durban fisherman want access to all traditional fishing grounds

KZN Subsistence Fisherman Forum held a fisherman's walk on Durban's Promenade on Saturday.

FISHERFOLKS in Durban say they want government to grant them access to traditional fishing grounds all along the Indian Ocean coastline. According to the fishermen, Japanese, Chinese and other international trawlers are being allowed to fish during the winter months, thereby depriving local fishermen of sardines and shad which are in abundance at this time.

The KZN Subsistence Fishermen’s Forum (KZNSFF), together with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, held a fisherman’s walk on Durban’s Promenade on Saturday to raise awareness for the plight of fisherfolk.

SDCEA Communications and Media Officer, Joanne Groom said legitimate fisherfolk who possessed fishing licences had to endure constant harassment, fines and, in some instances, arrest, and were forced to appear in court only to find that the cases had been withdrawn.

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“These challenges have emanated since fishermen began empowering and educating themselves about human rights injustices. Fishermen have worked together with Ezemvelo Wildlife to develop a mentoring booklet to ensure that endangered fish species are protected and that all policies are adhered to by all fishermen.Subsistence fisherfolk pay millions of rands, which go into the state treasury, through the purchasing of fishing licences at the post office and yet there is no benefit: no facilities or services in return for their contribution,” Groom said.

The environmentalists also expressed outrage over ExxonMobil’s plans to drill for oil and gas off Durban’s southern coastline. They claim that the recent rush by oil and gas corporations to explore, mine and drill is of alarm to every person living on the coastline.

“These same corporations have a track record of spills and harmful operations that have destroyed the oceans, marine life, biodiversity, tourism and sustainable jobs in the Gulf of Mexico, Antarctica, North and South Poles, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Niger Delta and many other sensitive areas of the Amazon. The most notorious is ExxonMobil, whose most recent boss is now the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. It was recently revealed that Exxon knew about climate change from the late 1970s and Tillerson was involved in a cover-up with catastrophic consequences. Can we trust this firm to drill for oil just a few kilometres offshore from Durban?” asked Groom.

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The local environmentalists also called for the need for strong and experienced leadership at Ezemvelo Wildlife. According to SDCEA, Ezemvelo has a crucial role to play in our society and has been at the forefront of conservation in KwaZulu-Natal, halting poaching and protecting animals and marine life. “Although at times they seemed to be harsh and have treated subsistence fisherfolk with distaste, we feel that they have been the strongest enforcement body in the province, watching our coastline, parks and beaches. Without that oversight we would leave nothing for the present and future generations to view, enjoy or eat,” said Groom.

At the end of the walk it was agreed that the city, government, Transnet and all the departments which are responsible for protecting the ocean must work together with civil society to ensure marine stocks and waters are protected and always available. There was also a call to end the dumping of harmful chemicals and a call for an urgent Imbizo.


Rudy Nkgadima

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