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Assisting fishing communities to improve their economic situation

By Tania Moyikwa*, Master’s Student, University of Cape Town
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Master’s student Tania Moyikwa is assisting fishers to improve their economic situation by tapping into indigenous knowledge


The Lamberts Bay fishers voiced their concern about the changes the new policy might bring to their fishing practices and the existing structures within the community


Tania at the entrance to the Doring Bay abalone farm, a local economic development project


The Langebaan workshop participants said they perceived the ABALOBI app to be a powerful tool

The Masifundise Development Trust in partnership with Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA), a mass-based community organisation that was established in 2003, ran a workshop for Eastern and Western Cape fishers.

The main purpose of the workshop was to facilitate an exchange of relevant knowledge and lessons learned between the two regions, and to introduce the fishers to ABALOBI, a mobile app to boost small-scale fishing in South Africa.

A range of coastal communities from the two provinces were present at the workshop. Eastern Cape communities represented were Centane, Peddie, Homberg, Dwesa-Cebe and Colchester. The group consisted of three women and five men.

For the Western Cape, communities represented were Langebaan, Lamberts Bay and Doring Bay. There was no gender variation in the Western Cape group. The workshop was also attended by an ABALOBI representative and two students from the University of Cape Town - Robin George and Tania Moyikwa, who were assisting and, at the same time, gaining experience at running such workshops for their own research project.

The workshops were held in Langebaan, Lamberts Bay and Doring Bay. Although these three communities are not far from each other, their environmental and socio-economic issues vary quite significantly. The reason for this is the different ways in which these communities are managed by the community members, although they are all impacted by the same national and provincial governance from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Currently fishers are operating under interim relief and a small-scale fishery policy is about to be implemented.

Lamberts Bay

The Lamberts Bay fishers voiced their concern about the changes the policy might bring to their fishing practices and the existing structures within the community. The discussion was mostly around the introduction of the existing structures, how they function and possible changes when the policy is implemented.

The community has two cooperatives - a fishing cooperative known as Coast Fellas and a post- and pre-harvest cooperative called Fish Tail Cooperative. Coast Fellas generate money for the cooperative by putting their boats up for rent and using the money for maintenance. Members of the Fish Tail Cooperative have called for a market place to be included in the cooperative constitution as small-scale fishing is not made up of fishing only. The marketing side should also be recognised and addressed.

Doring Bay

When the Oceana Group was still operating in the Doring Bay community, they held powerful rights and economic advantages (they could harvest more in terms of quantity and seafood production). When they left, the fishers were left with little to almost no power. Their vulnerability was exacerbated by the way in which they were exploited or sidelined by the private sector.

However, this community has recovered due to the use of a business model that has enabled them to manage well on their own after the big groups left. Fisheries management plans have also been drafted. The fishers created a cooperative to be recognised as such by the government and to access fishing rights. Rights are given to the cooperative, but permits to harvest seafood are given to individuals. The 77 fishers that are permit holders benefit from the cooperative.

When the cooperative was established in 2012, it received 29 boats. Twenty-seven were small boats with one engine, but two were bigger with two engines each. Twenty of these boats are on the government system (DAFF) and have a fishing licence for lobster, but must still apply for a linefish licence. People within the cooperative tend to be attached to and take ownership of the boats that belong to the cooperative.

The community established a second cooperative in partnership with the neighbouring community, but this could become a problem when the new policy comes into force as it states that there should be only one cooperative per community.

The Doring Bay fishers are looking forward to adopting the ABALOBI app.


The mayor gave a brief overview of the community and its current status. He said the community’s history in terms of cooperatives has not been a good one and they would need to be briefed on why a cooperative would be important to them.

During the workshop the fishers said that they perceived ABALOBI to be a powerful tool.

Input from the Eastern Cape

There was a lively interaction between the Eastern Cape fishers and the local communities. The Eastern Cape fishers said they were frightened to use boats but would be willing to learn how to use them. They would need strong boats for their rough seas.

They came across as very business-minded about their fisheries, but said they needed clarity about financial security. The Dwesa-Cebe community said they were experiencing major issues with the marine protected area (MPA) within their territory. The Eastern Cape has more MPAs than the Western Cape and there is a lack of infrastructure (such as harbours) in the province.

Lessons for the Eastern Cape

The communities would need to form cooperatives to obtain fishing rights under the new policy. Boats built for the Eastern Cape should be suitable for their environment. The ABALOBI app can assist fishers in managing their business.

* Tania is carrying out her Master’s research in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town, under the supervision of Serge Raemaekers, Laura Blamey, Ross Blamey and Juliet Hermes, Manager of SAEON’s Egagasini Node. She has been collaborating with SAEON since being part of its education programme six years ago.

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