Draft National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy Approved by Cabinet

08 September 2021

Cabinet recently approved the draft National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy for implementation.

As the first national policy to guide the sustainable utilisation of freshwater fisheries, development of the sector is now recognised, as the small-scale fisheries subsector and trade by local communities surrounding inland public waterbodies.

The policy, which is the result of an intensive public consultation process, provides an efficient regulatory regime for the inland fisheries sector.  It also formalises informal and unrecognised activities of small-scale fishers in inland areas. 

In general, inland fisheries resources in South Africa are currently managed in terms of conservation and biodiversity objectives and are not sufficiently recognised as a livelihood opportunity, source of food security or as a contributor to the economy.

Its successful implementation is an opportunity for socio-economic benefits including job creation, the improvement of rural livelihoods; food security; the development of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMME) and economic development based on the small-scale and recreational fishing value chains.

This policy creates an equitable inland fishing governance framework with defined user rights and socio-economic goals to include rural communities in livelihood and economic opportunities linked to freshwater natural resources.  By recognising the economic, social and food security value of inland recreational and small-scale fisheries, inland fisheries governance has been aligned with the Constitutional requirements for the sustainable use of natural resources without harming the environment. The policy adopts the “ecosystem approach to fisheries” which aims to increase the contribution of fisheries to sustainable development through considering ecological constraints such as habitat protection and restoration, pollution reduction and waste management, sustainable harvesting of fisheries resources.

An additional step is the recognition of recreational anglers as important stakeholders in South African inland fisheries whose interests would be recognised in future fisheries development initiatives. There are an estimated 1.5 million recreational anglers which have a significant economic impact through the tourism sector and related angling supply value chains.

The draft policy recognises the need for an integrated multi-departmental and multi-stakeholder approach to enable the sustainable development of the inland fisheries sector, as well as the need for transformation and growth of value chains linked to the inland fisheries sector.

The basis for the establishment of dedicated resources and capacity for the inland fisheries sector is also provided.

Because fishing activities are currently regulated by the provincial departments responsible for environmental management in terms of their environmental Acts, national and provincial legislation will be promulgated to provide for permits and authorisations which may be issued to individuals, legal entities or community groups. Inland fishing permits and authorisations will continue to be issued in terms of provincial environmental Acts, ordinances and regulations, while the work surrounding the inland fisheries legal framework unfolds.

Small-scale fishers living close to a waterbody of interest will be prioritised for issuing of permits without unfairly discriminating against other resource-users. An efficient and user-friendly registration and permitting system for all resource-user categories will be investigated by the Department, in consultation with the National Treasury. The aim is to develop the most affordable permitting system and ensure that the permit application fees are minimal and affordable, with the possibility of exempting certain categories from paying for fishing permits.

Officials in all spheres of government are to be trained to effectively implement the measures required to stabilise and grow the sector.  Training will also be provided to ensure efficient enforcement of the policy and meaningful participation of fishers on the co-management structures. 

The policy is aligned to the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030 which supports the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, and supports food security, poverty alleviation and income generation.

To access the draft National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy, click on:



For media inquiries contact:

Zolile Nqayi
Cell:  082 898 6483
E-mail: znqayi@environment.gov.za 


Editor’s note:

Inland fisheries in South Africa is dominated by recreational and small-scale fishing for subsistence and livelihood purposes.

Small-scale fishing is present and growing on most inland waterbodies and contributes to the food security and livelihoods of rural communities. It is largely an informal activity, lacking formalised governance arrangements and institutions for stakeholder representation.

Most small-scale fishers are impoverished and the role of fishing in their livelihood strategies is diverse, ranging from a part-time activity for food security to a full-time commercial occupation. Value chains for freshwater fish are short, with little value addition. The fish are generally sold fresh informally or consumed by the family. Indigenous knowledge relating to traditional and customary fishing culture, gear, and common pool resource governance is present in some communities but is adapted to modern circumstances. Small scale fishers have expressed concerns that their fishing rights, traditional and customary fishing practices and contributions to rural livelihoods are not recognised by the government and other stakeholders. 

The National Biodiversity Assessment (2018) (NBA) notes that the majority of South Africa’s freshwater ecosystems are degraded and threatened by, inter alia, changes to the hydrological regime (flow of water), water quality, loss of natural habitat, invasive alien species and the over-exploitation of species.

The NBA states that approximately 30% of the 118 indigenous freshwater fish species are threatened. Freshwater fish species are the most threatened taxonomic group in South Africa.
One of the biggest pressures on indigenous freshwater species is predation by alien fishes. It is therefore important that stocking of freshwater ecosystems with alien fish species is done in a risk-averse and precautionary manner.  

The NBA states that the exploitation of indigenous fish species is currently not a pressure on those species given the relatively low development of South Africa’s inland fisheries. The development of fisheries in South Africa involving the exploitation of indigenous fishes should take into consideration the fact that most large indigenous species are characterised by long-lived, slow-growing and late-maturing traits, making them vulnerable to overexploitation.


For media enquiries contact:

Zolile Nqayi
Cell:  082 898 6483
E-mail: znqayi@environment.gov.za