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Debate on key fishing bill stalled in Parliament

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No responses yet to angry fishing communities

photo of fisherman in meeting
Saldanha Bay fisherman Christo Koopman told MPs during public hearings on the Marine Spatial Planning Bill that the Bill would have a serious impact on fishing communities. Photo: Alicestine October
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While protests in the fishing communities of Hout Bay and Hawston flared up last week, in Parliament the debate stalled on the Marine Spatial Management Bill with its own set of implications for fishing communities.

The Department of Environmental Affairs was due to respond to public submissions received on the Bill, including the grievances of small scale fishers who say they have not been consulted properly. But the legal advisor who drafted the Bill for the committee was on study leave and MPs took almost an hour to decide not to go ahead with the discussions, though delegations from two departments had made the trip to Parliament. The committee directed concerns by fishing communities back to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, insisting on feedback to these communities.

During the public hearings, fishing communities from KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape, as far as Port Nolloth, said they had been excluded from the process and their livelihoods were being threatened. The KwaZulu-Natal Subsistence Fishermen’s Forum, and fishers in Saldanha Bay, said the Bill should specify clearly the different groups which were affected, such as subsistence fishers, fishing clubs and small businesses on the coast. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) said the Bill was necessary to prevent conflicts between various users of the ocean such as fishing and mining and to ensure the marine environment is protected and well managed.

The DEA’s responses to the public submissions, however, do not tackle the small scale fishers’ grievances, according to a presentation GroundUp has seen. Nor does the presentation, which has not yet been made, take into account a submission by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) which proposed broader engagement and public consultation. The DEA said its reluctance to make consultation a statutory requirement was based on “historical experience”, referring to the Consultative Advisory Forum established under the Marine Living Resources Act before 2010, which, it said, had never got off the ground due to disagreements among different factions. The CER’s proposal for an independent authority to consider appeals against decisions on marine spatial planning was also dismissed.

MPs chose to postpone a discussion of the DEA responses until the legal advisor was present.

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TOPICS:  Fishing

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