Appeals for fishing rights allocation process drowning livelihoods

The slow appeals process in the fishing rights allocation process (Frap) is preventing fishermen from making a living.

The high cost of fuel and bureaucratic requirements for appeals of the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) by the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries’ (DEFF) are robbing the traditional Kalk Bay fishing community of their livelihoods.

The fishing rights allocation process helps to achieve the transformation of the fishing industry and the management of commercial fishing rights, according to Deff spokesman Albi Modise.

Since the 2021/22 Frap allocations in the nine commercial fishing sectors in February this year, many local fishermen, who had not been granted rights to fish, have been unable to make a living and provide for their families due to the tedious appeals process.

In May, the Frap appeals process was extended until July after a number of applicants were dissatisfied with the outcome of the process. However, the process is yet to be concluded.

Peter Swart, the skipper of Freda, a commercial fishing boat, said he was born in Kalk Bay and has been fishing on his boat for 53 years.

He said the boat had been operating commercially since 1949 until early 2022 when his rights to fish were denied because his tax clearance certificate was not certified.

He said the certificate had been SMSed to him, with a stamp on it, as he could not collect it due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has been doing maintenance on his boat while waiting for the outcome of his appeal, despite getting the highest score in the line fishing sector during his original application.

But the process is not only affecting fishermen.

Rafiek Isaacs, who buys fish from the boats and resells it to the public, said only two boats in Kalk Bay currently have licences to fish.

He said it affected his business as not many fish were coming into the harbour.

While he could go and buy fish elsewhere, he said it would affect the cost to customers as he would have to charge more.

He said his wife and mother-in-law had been working as fish cleaners their whole lives and they are being affected too.

Ferial Davids, who also sells fish, said she has lived in Kalk Bay all her life and it has been a difficult time for the entire fishing community of Kalk Bay.

She said the Frap appeals process affected how much fish was available and the rising costs of petrol and diesel made it even more difficult for small-scale fishermen to sustain themselves.

Ward councillor Aimee Kuhl said the City of Cape Town needs to be given the opportunity to manage small boat harbours, in terms of existing legislation that already gives the City the powers to do this.

“The government should provide the required budget to the City in order to do this so that we can build thriving small boat harbours that provide opportunities for local people. It is becoming clear that many of the attempts to resolve issues relating to fishing allocations by the national government continue to be fraught with administrative problems,” she said.

Ms Kuhl said Deff minister Barbara Creecy should be granting exemptions for these fishing communities to continue to catch and sell their fish.

“The responsibility for the awarding of certain fishing rights should be devolved to competent provincial authorities, such as those in the Western Cape to speed up the process and make the awarding of rights fairer,” she said.

City of Cape Town spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said while the Frap process belongs to Deff, the City is of the view that the Constitution designates small boat harbours as a local government competency in terms of oversight and regulation of the management.

Mayoral committee member for economic growth, James Vos said the infrastructure and assets such as buildings, wharfs, and parking, at small boat harbours are owned by the national department of public works and infrastructure, the City is continuously engaging with the department to resolve challenges and improve the economic and social value of these harbours.

“The challenges related to the Frap would need to be addressed on a national level and DA MP Dave Bryant is actively engaging the national minister in order to assist the affected local fisher folk,” Mr Vos said.

Mr Modise said there had been technical difficulties with the online appeals application system earlier hence why the application deadline had been extended.

He added that the 2021 frap allocation was for commercial fishing rights and not for small-scale fishing rights. He said the allocation of fishing rights to small-scale fishers in the Western Cape has started anew as a result of the Western Cape High Court decision on Wednesday, August 31, and is expected to be concluded by March 2023.

Despite asking for a response from Ms Creecy to Ms Kuhl’s request to give the City the opportunity to manage small boat harbours, no response was given at the time of going to print.

Rafiek Isaacs, who sells smoked, dried, salted and fresh snoek, said only two boats in Kalk Bay currently have licences to fish.
Ferial Davids at her fish stand.
Skipper Peter Swart on his boat, Freda.