New process for Western Cape small-scale fisheries rights allocation to commence

05 September 2022

The Western Cape High Court has reviewed and set aside the 2016-2019 process of awarding small-scale fishing rights in the Western Cape.

The process to verify and confirm small-scale fishers, which is being reopened this month, is open only to all those individuals that participated in the previous process in 2016.

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, had earlier approached the Western Cape High Court seeking the review of the process following multiple complaints from community members about its fairness and accuracy.  The order was handed down on 31 August 2022.

The court application had not altered existing rights for small-scale fishers, meaning these remain in place until the new verification process is complete.  

The high court decision means that applications made for the verification and confirmation of small-scale fishers and communities in the Western Cape are remitted to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and the Minister for decision. 

The department will, therefore, re-run the verification, registration, and declaration of small-scale fishers and ultimately allocate rights to the small-scale fishing sector.

In preparation for the new process, the department will be hosting regular community interactions and will ensure the direct involvement of community-based organisations.  An independent implementing service provider and an observer forum have been appointed to promote neutrality, transparency, and fairness in the entire process.

The process will include the mobilisation of fishing communities, the distribution of verification forms, and receipt of the forms.  It also includes registration and verification, the announcement of a provisional list, the handling of appeals, and the declaration of the final list of small-scale fishers to receive allocations. Once this is completed, small-scale fishing cooperatives will be registered and the rights awarded will be allocated.

Various species have been set aside for the small-scale fishing sector. Some have already been allocated to the existing small-scale fishing co-operatives in other coastal provinces as part of the 2021 fishing rights allocation process.


Editor's note


In 2016, the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (DAFF) verified 8 488 individuals in fishing communities that had expressed interest in the small-scale fishery sector. This was followed by the declaration of 2 802 small-scale fishers.  As a result, several complaints regarding the justness and transparency of the process followed in the Western Cape were received by the DAFF.

The internal audit process was launched in 2019, and concluded that the verification process was “wholly inadequate”, and that the “results of these assessments cannot and should not be relied on for any decision-making purpose in terms of the regulations.

Among the errors identified were problems with how the application forms were worded, the inaccurate capturing of information and the incorrect adjudication of applications by community panels.  There was inconsistent application of criteria between communities, an incorrect and incoherent application and appeals process as well as incomplete and inaccurate data, including lost applications.

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