Fishermen want a full restart of rights allocations

Fishermen on the West Coast and Cape Town have called for the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) to be scrapped and restarted, after many failed to obtain fishing rights for 15 years.

During the last week of July, meetings were held with fishermen from Kalk Bay, Saldanha Bay, Hawston and Mossel Bay, called by ANC leader in the provincial legislature Cameron Dugmore and other officials. Dugmore said the meetings were called after numerous complaints from fishers whose rights applications had not been approved for FRAP 2021-22. Some were previously rights holders and some were new entrants.

Dugmore told GroundUp that the fishermen’s concerns would be passed on to Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment.

Several fishermen present at the Kalk Bay and Saldanha Bay meetings demanded that the whole process be abandoned and restarted. Many have also raised concerns about high application costs. Others said coastal communities that had fished for generations were not given enough consideration.

Candidates had until July 29 to appeal if they were not selected.

“It’s a very serious issue,” Dugmore said. “If you don’t succeed, that means for the next 15 years you won’t have fishing rights.”

Dugmore said the very “large, established companies” didn’t seem to have any complaints, but small businesses and fishermen had raised many concerns. He said the minister had no choice but to set aside the current application process.

“Too expensive” apps

Unsuccessful candidate Nicolette Weitsz told the meeting in Kalk Bay that fishermen were being charged “astronomical fees”. For example, in the Hake Deep Sea category, the application fee was R40,000. Only two new entrants were selected. Weitsz said fishermen should have been told that only a limited number of applicants would be granted rights. In the category of squid, for example, no new rights have been granted.

Weitsz also said applicants weren’t given all the information about their unsuccessful applications that they would need to appeal.

“FRAP should be scrapped and restarted,” Weitsz said. She said current rights holders and successful new applicants should be allowed to complete the year, and next year the process should be started again properly. “There are a lot of livelihoods at stake,” she said.

Unsuccessful candidate Nicolette Weitsz wants the fishing rights process to be scrapped and restarted. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Elmondo Paulse, a fisherman from Saldanha Bay, said the high fees were aimed at preventing small businesses from applying. “Some of these small fishermen had to borrow money to apply. Now they are in debt again,” he said, noting that each claim was non-refundable.

“If you’re not successful, bad luck, you’re wasting your money,” Paulse said.

Jacobus Poggenpoel, who says his family has fished in Kalk Bay for more than 100 years and was a former FRAP rights holder, agreed the process should be scrapped. He held rights to pilchards and anchovies, as well as hake longline fishing, but this time without success.

Prioritize large companies

Poggenpoel said the application process was designed for large companies. “How can small businesses compete with big ones? ” He asked.

GroundUp reported complaints from Hout Bay fishermen in April that most rights had been transferred to larger companies.

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment spokesman Albi Modise said the department was aware of the concerns and unsuccessful applicants were encouraged to appeal.

He said it was “premature” for the department to comment on the process until the minister had considered the appeals. He said there had been technical errors with the online application system, but these had been corrected and the department had extended the application deadline to compensate.

Modise said 551 appeals had been filed and expected that number to increase as the appeal period was still ongoing at the time of comment.

This article was written by Liezl Human and first published on GroundUp.

READ ALSO: Small fishermen have a hard time at Easter

Sign up for Mzansi today: Your daily perspective on agricultural value chain news and events.

James V. Hayes