Coastal Justice Network newsletter 1: 2021

This first newsletter covers January to May and overlaps with human rights day in South Africa. Fisher leaders across the country are organizing against the significant human rights abuses that they are witnessing along the coast. We are far from realizing the full flourishing of small scale fisher rights in South Africa, but we are all inspired and committed to building a stronger solidarity movement for fisher rights. 

Fisher organisers in Saldanha express questions about the oil drilling off the coastline on human rights day. Shared from Green Connection.

Fisher organisers in Hamburg made the link recently between Human Rights Day on the 21st, World Water Day on the 22nd, and the ongoing Covid pandemic. Posters from left to rights read: “9 months with no water (crisis)”; “Where is human rights and future?”; “Human rights day, no water vs COVID-19”

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance hold a demonstration for water, ocean and fisher wellbeing

First coastal justice zoom meeting: The challenge of participation moving online

Fisher leaders and researchers in the One Ocean hub attempted to have a zoom meeting. The experience of this meeting was enough to highlight the significant challenges to engagement with those who are outside of major signal areas. Some fishers had to walk 500m to get a signal, many others could not join. Amongst those who joined in, we talked about the need for more meetings that bring fishers together in person across the country.

Screen Shot from our first SSF leaders Zoom Call

Members of Coastal Justice Network attended the Aliwal Shoal MPA management plan consultation plan meeting in KZN, and the Amathole MPA draft management plan consultation in Hamburg, Eastern Cape, and we have continued to monitor the development of the management plan in Isimangaliso Wetland Park.  We have raised our deep concerns about the lack of participation in these processes, and the way that small scale and subsistence fishers rights and voices are overlooked in these plans. We will continue to track these processes, to participate in them where possible, and hold the conservation agencies and DFFE accountable in terms of REAL participation of coastal communities and fishers.

Rights allocation review in the Western Cape

Fishers in the coastal justice network have been engaging with the minister’s review of rights allocation in the western cape. While this is a small move towards acknowledging the inadequacy of fisher rights allocation process, the ministers’ actions are concerning for a number of reasons. Firstly, fishers feel that rights allocation processes need to be reviewed across the country, not just the western cape. In addition, they need to be reviewed thoroughly and not just reversed to reconsider who originally applied. Many were left out of the application process. While this is a challenging concern for fishers as some stand to benefit from this, fishers need to stand together and insist that DEFF works more closely with fisher communities to allocate rights. [read more in a pamphlet we have produced – shared on the whatsapp group]

Small Scale Chokka Fishers Plight Falls on DEFF Ears

In November 2019, to great fanfare and media coverage Minister Barbara Creecy granted 15 year rights to 20 small-scale fishing (SSF) co-operatives in the Eastern Cape. This was celebrated as a long overdue milestone in the struggle for rights and recognition by small scale and subsistence fishers in the province. In March 2020 an additional 52 cooperatives in the province received their rights. However, more than a year later, and having endured deepening poverty and inequality because of COVID-19, these co-operatives still do not have access to the ‘basket of resources’ they were promised.  Fifteen of the Eastern Cape cooperatives were allocated squid with their Letter of Right, as one of their permitted target species. For these co-operatives, whose members have worked for years as underpaid crew on commercial squid vessels, this is the one high value species they are relying upon to turn their ‘paper rights’ into economically viable businesses.

In April, there were several meetings between the Coastal Justice research team and members from Eastern Cape Co-operatives, in Hamburg, Gqeberha, Jeffreys Bay and Kareedouw, all of whom have squid in their baskets but still have no permits due to the appeal put forward by SASMIA (the squid industrial association). We learnt a lot about the history of the chokka industry, and about the SSF co-operatives inspiring visions for how they might transform this industry to make it more sustainable and bring hope back to their communities. More news about this soon!

EC Khoisan fishers co-op in Gqeberha

Freddie, Ronnie and Taryn study maps showing the lack of access to the sea for fisherfolk in the Kareedouw area

Gavin and Lizo show Taryn and Dylan the boat that will soon be built for the Sarah Baartman co-op

Know your coastal rights! MPAs and MSP must include fishers and other community members 

There is a trend across South Africa and increasingly so under conditions of COVID-19 that rights holders are left out of marine planning that directly affects their lives and livelihoods. Fishers and their communities need to be consulted and included in ‘marine spatial planning (MSP) and in the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  It is important for South Africans to know that the National Environmental Marine Protected Area Act stipulates the following about planning an MPA

39. Preparation of management plan (1) The Minister or the MEC may make an assignment in terms of section 38(1) or (2) only with the concurrence of the prospective management authority. (2) The management authority assigned in terms of section 38(1) or (2) must, within 12 months of the assignment, submit a management plan for the protected area to the Minister or the MEC for approval. (3) When preparing a management plan for a protected area, the management authority concerned must consult municipalities, other organs of state, local communities and other affected parties who have an interest in the area.  

Siyaphambili Co-Op in Hamburg

Norton from Langebaan shared this picture on the SSF leaders WhatsApp group, of fish species that recreational fishers had caught in the Langebaan MPA, that small scale fishers are not allowed to catch

Fisher Womens’ Network

CJN was able to hold its first physical meeting with fisherwomen drawn from Eastern Cape Black Fishers Association – Cooperative (ECBFAC) and Eastern Cape Khoisan Co-operative (ECKC) making it an inaugural meeting since the network formation and as well as the establishment of Cooperatives – which shows the reality of grouping of names together to form Cooperatives by the Officials – Some members remain anonymous to each other as explained. The experience was ecstatic for the ECBFA and ECKC fisherwomen to be able to gather and share experiences spanning from the formation of the Co-operatives to Covid 19 pandemic era and current. While they were in consensus that Covd19 has indeed crippled their livelihood and that of their spouses, they acknowledge that their struggles would not have been any different as this has been ongoing for many years. A similar network exists in Hamburg of members drawn from Siyaphambili Fishing Co-operative and we were able to meet some of the fisherwomen during this period.

Hilda and Anna in Mamre

Transnational solidarity

The coastal justice network expresses considerable concern about what has been unfolding in Mozambique and especially the way in which the conflict is wrapped up with oil and gas drilling, We know the struggles along the South African coastline are shared and wrapped up with ecological conflicts around the world and drawing these connections is a significant part of building transformative power amongst coastal people. Linda Arkert from Green Connection writes powerfully about how conflicts emerge in connection with oil and gas drilling. Read more here:

No to Oil and Gas; Yes to Renewable Energy

On 27 April, SDCEA, KZNSFF and the Umkomaas / Aliwal Shoal Fishing Forum hosted an awareness day to highlight the destructive SASOL/ENI oil and gas exploration granted by Minister Creecy off the KZN coast. As the Coastal Justice Network we stand in solidarity with this struggle! 

Desmond D’Sa from SDCEA addressing a gathering at an awareness raising event about the oil and gas explorations off the KZN coast, on 27 April, ‘Unfreedom Day’. 

In addition to all of the oil and gas applications around the coastline, in March this year, we learnt about three new large energy projects called “Karpowerships” – power plants on ships that are proposed to float in South African ocean waters off the coast of Richards Bay in KZN, Coega in the Eastern Cape and Saldanha in the Western Cape. Green Connection has been playing a leadership role in raising awareness about these karpowerships, and supporting small scale fishers to comment on these plans. The EIA processes for these projects have not consulted local communities sufficiently, and there are very serious concerns about the impact they will have on the ocean environment, noise pollution and killing of sea and birdlife, affecting fisher livelihoods, as well as contributing to further climate change through the continued burning of fossil fuels. As the Coastal Justice Network we call for the protection of coastal livelihoods, and energy sovereignty for South African communities through renewable energy.

Article about SSF resistance to the Karpowerships published in the Cape Argus on 3 May

List of mining projects we have our eye on:

  1. Belton Traiing (2 applications – one 1km off shore from Elands baai northwards and one 5 km off shore) both EIAs underway with SRL Consultants doing these EIAs.
  2. The 4 new parcels of land for coastal mining that have recently been announced – Cape Zircon and Buchuberg Mining managed by two consultants from Archean Resources
  3. The Lutzville MSR application on the other bank of the Olifantsriver mouth: Appealed and waiting to hear back.
  4. The Tormin mining of the 10 beaches which are just north of the Olifantsmouth area – UCT colleagues are very involved in this and in discussion with Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) about legal action.

UCT members of the Coastal Justice Network are also monitoring the many pressures facing fishers in Honderklipbaai. This small community is facing coastal diamond mining, offshore diamond mining, two gas drilling applications, and an MPA that only allows recreational fishing and no small scale fishing! 

Send us your news and updates! 

This is just a small taste of the many activities and struggles that members of our network have engaged in over the last few months! Please keep sending your news, pictures and updates to the SSF leaders Whatsapp group, so that we can add them to the next newsletter.