PROTECTING OUR OCEANS FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY! Small-scale fishers from Western Cape celebrate World Fisheries Day and their Livelihoods organizing Food and Craft Market in Paternoster

The 10th Anniversary of the Equality Court Order that forced the then Minister of Fisheries, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk to amend the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) so that thousands of Small- Scale Fishers (SSF) along the South African coastline could be recognised, and their traditional way of life respected.

The Court also instructed the Minister to develop a policy for SSF. The policy, which included the insights and traditional knowledge of fishers was eventually amalgamated in 2012, but the Regulations that enacts the policy was only finalised in 2016.

In June 2017, Coastal Links South Africa(CLSA) evaluated the SSFP implementation process and reaffirmed its support for the principals enshrined in the policy but noted that the DAFF had failed to timeously deliver this much needed policy – resulting in fishers and their families suffering gravely as unemployment, poverty and other social ills mushroom along the coastline, violating their basic constitutional and human right to food.

The Western Cape Coastal Links took a decision in August 2017, to stop waiting on government to deliver the policy, but to rise above their circumstances, and find ways to improve their livelihoods. They discussed what delicacies and crafts they could make from the ocean and how they could create employment opportunities especially for the youth and women in the process. It is here that the idea of the SSF Food and Craft Market was conceptualised. The date was chosen to coincide with International World Fishers Day on 21 November.

On 23 November, the SSF from of the Western Cape travelled to Paternoster to showcase its tradition, celebrate its culture and show that, given, the full rights as per the SSPF they can restore dignity and a decent livelihood. Weskus Radio Station in Vredenburg interviewed three leaders which was deemed a success by the station host.

The event was a first for CLSA, and it created a great sense of camaraderie and confidence amongst the fishers as they painted banners and discussed the process of preparing their produce. On the day of the event, they proudly displayed a large variety of foods and crafts made from items associated to the ocean.

The constant flow of customers, sometimes by the busload, feasted on the home- brewed ginger beer and pineapple juice. There was a variety of pickled jams, smoked mussels, fish and chips, homemade bread and perlemoen soup. The ‘gees’ was palpable as Weskus Radio opened the event at 10 am and continued to broadcast until 5pm. The CLSA leaders were eager to showcase their produce with customers who showed great interest produce too. It was evident that given the full basket of species in their fishing area, they would be able to carve out a decent livelihood and dignified way of life.

Upon evaluation, it was felt that the event was a huge success that can be improved upon. Weskus Radio showed gratitude to Masifundise and CLSA for the opportunity to be part of the event. The WC leadership also agreed for it to become an annual event, hosted by a different town each year. 

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