Fisheries minister to accelerate allocation of fishing rights following Hout Bay protests

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana has issued directives to senior officials to accelerate the process of allocating fishing rights in coastal communities, following violent protests in Hout Bay.

The protests were sparked by the disappearance of Hangberg fisherman Deurick van Blerk, who apparently jumped overboard during an anti-poaching operation on Saturday. A missing persons docket was opened when Van Blerk did not return home.

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Zokwana noted that the incident highlighted the urgency with which fishing rights had to be allocated to small-scale fishermen, who had no other means of income.

"Consistent with the Marine Living Resources Act as amended, I am committed to fast track the entry of those who were disadvantaged to the fishing sector," she said.

"I want to see diversification and new enterprises emerging from the previously disadvantaged players. The marine resources harvesting cannot be an exclusive reserve of the big few companies. Government as the custodian of the marine life and ocean, has a moral obligation to change the status quo."

The process is expected to begin in September.

Zokwana added that the department had difficulty in engaging with the Hangberg community.

"Our attempts to have meetings with the community have been difficult because of the emotions still running very high, except engagement with community leaders," he said.

"I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the family of the drawn fisherman. Police who specialise in body search in waters are still looking for the body and my department is in constant communication with them."