Durban fishermen deprived

Bill Butler and Darryl McCann of Coastal Skipper fisheries, Durban, KZN. Picture: Nomfundo Mlaba

While President Jacob Zuma claimed that the fisheries sector contributes an estimated R6 billion to the economy and provides 27 000 jobs, most of these jobs belong to Europeans and Asians.President Zuma claimed this at his 2014 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The fishermen at the Durban Harbour and surrounding areas are still not happy with the environment they fish in. Not only is it the environment that they are not satisfied with, but also the restrictions in terms of where and what type of fish they are allowed to fish per day.

 Mr Bill Butler, of Coastal Skipper fishermen, Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, said the president is manipulating  people into believing that South African fisherman are benefitting from the country’s resources, but a majority of Jobs in the fisheries sector belong to foreign countries.

Butler (77) who has been a fisherman for 58 years says this sector’s dilapidating process is moving at a high speed. “The Durban harbour is the most expensive harbour in the world. The commercial fishing license is ridiculously expensive and we are limited to the number of fishes we can fish. But at the same time, the Europeans own the Seas of Durban. They are even allowed to fish the kind of fishes we are not allowed to fish.” Said Butler

Butler also said he was once asked to leave a meeting for asking the director what he expects them to do with the dead fishes at the sea. This he asked because, the fisheries law states that it is a crime to put a dead fish back into water, but it is also an offence to SPCA if one feeds their cat a dead fish and the cause of its death is unknown.

President Jacob Zuma also said that the country’s harbours and ports have been improved. According to Butler, again this is a claim; the Durban Harbour is polluted and full of corroded boats. It is also said that the Harbour is divided into two. The non-polluted side of the harbour belongs to the Europeans, and is the part where all the estimated profits come from. And then the filthy side for South Africans.

”There are no facilities for small commercial fishermen, the government has not even attempted to fund us so we can start working again and re-hire our employees who are now unemployed. We are not even allowed to sell our fishes on the streets, if we are caught doing that we are fined or sentenced but in Cape Town they are allowed.” Added McCann

On his 2014/15 budget speech, Minister of agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana forestry and fisheries said that they are working on making resources available to all the producers in this sector, including the fishermen of Durban. 

“Through earlier interactions with our public entities and sector organisations, my Deputy, the Honourable General Bheki Cele and I, have come to realise that a major part of community mobilisation will require us to make our resources available to all our producers, in particular, those who live in remote areas.” Said Zokwana

Parking a ship at the Durban Harbour costs roughly R5000 a month. And it is very hard for these deprived South African fishermen to maintain their boats, they are only limited to fish 10 fishes a day, and cannot even sell those fishes because they do not afford commercial fishing licenses.

The Durban fishermen now live in hope that the minister and his deputy will deliver this time around and will make a difference in their lives.