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WWF, DEFF, and partners extend a helping hand to the Kogelberg fishing community

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of small-scale fishing communities.

Since the lockdown began, these communities have faced many challenges, from the initial restrictions on being able to fish to the inability to access markets for their catch.

For the past eight years, the WWF marine team has been working closely with small-scale fishers in Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond to ensure that they and the rich marine environment on their doorsteps thrive.

This is why for this year’s Mandela Day activity, WWF teamed up with its partners to put together food vouchers and care parcels for distribution to 94 active members of the Kogelberg fishing community to help them and their families through this time of crisis.

Once again, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, who joined WWF for its Nelson Mandela Day activity in 2019, teamed up with WWF for the day. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has successfully set up over 110 fishing co-operatives involving 10 500 individual fisher men and women throughout the country. In the past year all of these co-operatives have been issued with 15-year fishing rights, and work started to provide them with formal training and other forms of business support.

The Minister travelled to Kleinmond for an outside meeting with representatives of the community – with all Covid-19 safety protocols observed.

Once the formalities were done, WWF volunteers delivered food vouchers and care packages containing hand sanitiser and masks to the homes of the 94 fishers.

Contributions towards the project came from WWF South Africa staff, Spar, DEFF, Coca Cola, Gift of the Givers and the project work sponsors for the Kogelberg work, namely BMZ and the Government of Flanders.


Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO WWF South Africa;

“WWF has a deep and long-standing relationship with the small-scale fishers of the Kogelberg whom we know face many day-to-day challenges, but who have also shown enormous willingness to work with us to protect the rich marine life on their doorstep. We would like to thank everyone who has come together today to put together this small relief package for a community whose hardship was only intensified by the Covid-19 crisis.”

Barbara Creecy, Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries:

“The small-scale fishers along the coast of our country have been hit hard by the economic and social effects of Covid-19.  This group was affected long before other communities felt the impact of the pandemic. From as early as February this year, fishing communities were unable to sell their catch in many Asian markets.

Today, in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, we again extend a hand of friendship and support to our small-scale fishing communities. Ours is a common struggle for transformation of the fishing industry, sustainable use of marine resources and access to better livelihoods for coastal communities.”

Background to WWF’s work with small-scale fishers

One of the severe challenges faced by small-scale fishers is that many of the marine resources that they have depended on historically have either collapsed or are in decline. Unless these resources can be effectively managed, this will continue on a downward spiral.

In an effort to address some of these issues, WWF is currently working with small-scale fishing communities in the Kogelberg in the Western Cape and Hamburg in the Eastern Cape, with funding assistance secured in 2019 from the Government of Flanders (3 years) and BMZ (5 years).

The BMZ project in Kogelberg builds on the WWF community work conducted there since 2012 and the Flanders project is the first scaling-up of this project to include the new site of Hamburg in the Eastern Cape.

The work in these areas includes initiatives such as exploring alternative, sustainable livelihoods, the training of young people as community monitors (and helping some to complete their matric exams) and employing the fishers to deploy Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs) to support conservation research.

These projects also contribute to two of the 100 sites from 34 countries participating in the global WWF Initiative on Accelerated Coastal Community-Led Conservation, which intends to scale out the community work from 100 sites to 300 sites by 2025.  

Background to DEFF’s work with small-scale fishers

South Africa has a long history of coastal communities utilising marine resources for various purposes. These fisher men and women use mostly traditional methods of fishing.  The conditions they work in are harsh, and their efforts to provide for their families and themselves have gone unrecognised for too long.

Since the approval of the Small-Scale Fishing Regulations to support fishing communities in 2016, the Department has been working with fishers to develop the small-scale fishing sector. DEFF has identified, registered, verified and declared about 10 500 small-scale fishers in the four coastal provinces of Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Small-scale fishing co-operatives have been registered in Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Each has been granted 15-year fishing rights for a basket of species to either sell to earn a living, or for their own use thus ensuring their food security.

In the Western Cape, fishing co-operatives were not formally recognised due to complaints the Minister received  in 2019, that the process was not even handed. Consequently, an independent  review of the verification process has been implemented to ensure that no small-scale fisher was left out in error. 

The Department is now in the process of registering additional small-scale fishing co-operatives in the Western Cape. Once these are registered, the Department will allocate all Western Cape Co-operatives 15-year fishing rights. The basket  will include West Coast Rock Lobster, line fish, Oysters, Mussels, Seaweed, net fish and hake handline.

As the Department finalises the formalisation of small-scale fishers in Western Cape, 2 965 interim relief fishers continue to have access to fish West Coast Rock Lobster, line fish, net fish, white mussel and bait species.

An enormous task lies ahead for the Department as it works to ensure that the small-scale fishing co-operatives are supported so that they can become economically sustainable and meet the food security needs of their community, alongside protecting sensitive marine resources.  To achieve this requires collaboration and partnerships – a priority for the Department.

It is the Department’s intention to offer training and mentorships to co-operatives over the next three years in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development and organisations such as  WWF which assists small-scale fishing communities in the Kogelberg of the Western Cape.

A catch data-monitoring program under the Expanded Public Works Program aims is to record data that will be used for scientific research and the sustainable management of the sector.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department categorised fishing as an essential service during the National Lockdown Levels 5 and 4 under the Disaster Management Act. Existing fisheries legislation and business processes have been amended to enable fishing activities whilst adhering to the required safety precautions outlined in the Disaster Management Act and Regulations promulgated in March this year.

During the lockdown, the Department has collaborated with the fishing industry to provide over 10 000 food parcels and 4 800 face masks to small-scale fishing communities along South Africa’s coastline.

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