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The Plight of Fishers

Published by Petrus van der Linde in The Plight of Fishers · 21/9/2016 20:43:51
Tags: Donation

The Plight of Fishers

Photographer Unknown

Small-scale fishers are among the most vulnerable socio-economic groups because of their high dependence on marine resource harvesting. While small-scale fisheries employ the overwhelming majority of the world's fishers and contribute substantially to the global catch, they are, on the whole, marginalised and ignored. Despite their importance in providing food security and livelihoods in coastal communities, state management authorities routinely neglect small-scale fisheries in favour of commercial fisheries (Nthane, 2015).

Small-scale fishing in many instances is for both commercial and subsistence reasons. It is in contrasts with large-scale modern commercial fishing practices in that it is often less wasteful and less stressful on fish populations than modern large-scale commercial fishing.

Picture courtesy of  abalobi.info

Fishermen in small-scale fisheries catch fish for subsistence or local, small markets. The fishermen generally use traditional fishing techniques and small boats. Small-scale fisheries occur around the world (particularly in developing nations) and are vital to the livelihoods and food security of the fishing community. Comparatively, small-scale and large-scale commercial fisheries catch the same amount of fish for human consumption (30 million tons), yet the small-scale fisheries employ 25 times the number of fishers (over 12 million people) and use an eighth of the amount of fuel used by large-scale commercial fisheries annually. Small-scale fishermen are more efficient in that they catch more fish for the volume of fuel used and very little of their catch get discarded at sea. Fish caught by small-scale fishermen are used for human consumption but about 20 tonnes of fish caught by commercial fisheries get processed into fish meal and oils (Jacquet & Pauly, 2008).

Our small-scale fishermen and their communities are under attack. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is estimated that in 2016 70% of the fish caught for human consumption will be caught by small-scale fishermen. This does not mean that small-scale fishers are catching more fish but simply that the commercial model is failing and we have more fishermen returning to traditional fishing methods.

Picture courtesy of  abalobi.info

Small-scale fisheries provide a valuable source of animal protein for billions of people worldwide and often underpin local economies in coastal communities. Despite the importance of small-scale fishers, many small-scale fishing communities continue to be marginalized. The fishing communities are often located in remote areas with limited access to markets and to health, education and other social services. This means that small-scale fishers can have difficulty in making their voices heard (FAO, 2014).

Small-scale fishers and fish workers face a range of challenges, from unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and poor infrastructure to pollution, environmental degradation, climate change and disasters threatening the resources they depend on for their livelihoods. They can also suffer from unequal power struggles and insecure tenure arrangements over land and fishery resources (FAO, 2014). Add to this that government makes policy decisions without consulting the fishing communities. These policy decisions have a lasting and often detrimental effect on the fishing communities.

South African small-scale fishermen, in particular, face a range of challenges when out on the ocean. The main challenges that impact on the safety of the fishermen on the water are sudden fog, no way of communicating from the water, small outboard engines that break, small vessels in a huge ocean and a lack of technology. The most dangerous of all the challenges is the sudden fog that develops with no warning and which could last for days. The fishing communities loose a bread winner on average every three months. Most of these calamities are caused by fog but can be prevented with the right technology and systems.

Hondeklip Bay with fog

Coastal Livelihoods Foundation NPC endeavours to provide every fishing community with the right technology and systems to prevent these calamities. We do this by providing the fishing communities with a safety system that will dramatically increase the safety of fishermen. The system allows the fishermen to be pro-active when an incident occur and prevents the incident to escalate from an incident to a calamity.

For example. The fog rolls in and the fishermen can’t see how to get back to shore safely. Without the system, they would have to stay on the water till the fog lifts and this could be days. To get back to safety they will have to activate a rescue service of some sort. In most cases, vessels get caught in the waves and capsize. The rescue service doesn’t know where the fishermen are and therefore do not know where to start the search. In many cases, the end result is the loss of life. With the safety system in place fishermen have access to a handheld maritime radio and a VHF-based tracking device with GPS pinpoint accuracy. Using this technology the base station operator then guides the fishermen back to safety. What would have been a potential life threatening situation has now become a routine practice and lives were spared. Using the safety system is the difference between a husband going back to his wife, a father back to his children, a breadwinner back to his family and an economic contributor back to his community.

Base station operator in Hondeklip Bay

We have equipped two communities in the Northern Cape with the safety system which has been operating for four years without the loss of life. We desperately want to equip all the other communities, but we need your help. Please consider making a recurring donation with the value of your choice. You can use the following link:

Thank you for your time and thank you for making a difference!


Nthane, T. T. (2015) Understanding the livelihoods of small-scale fishers in Lamberts Bay: Implications for the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy

Jacquet, J. & Pauly, D. (2008) Funding Priorities: Big Barriers to Small-Scale Fisheries. Conservation Biology, Volume 22, No. 4, 832–835. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00978.x

FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2014) Countries recognize vital role of small-scale fishers.

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