A fishing cooperative in Hamburg?

Michelle Stern's picture
A fishing cooperative in Hamburg?

The DLIST team was in Hamburg in March/April 2011 in order to conduct more research on the potential of a fishing cooperative in the community. It was emphasized that there is a need for access to external markets in order to sell fish at fair prices. Although there are buyers in the area that offer fair prices, many pay the price given several years ago, leaving many without another choice.

When speaking with several fishermen who once had abalone permits in 2002-2004, many confessed that they continue to poach abalone because the income they receive from the trade is not attainable through other means. It is a very dangerous trade as many fishermen have learned to dive themselves and go late at night with no equipment or proper training, risking their lives. It has recently been approved by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that abalone permits will be reintroduced on a small scale in select communities in the Eastern Cape, and Hamburg will be able to apply for permits once again. If approved, this will allow fishermen to legally fish in the day with proper equipment. The DAFF has encouraged the idea of a fishing cooperative in communities such as Hamburg in order to promote community-based monitoring. However, this remains a challenge as illegal poachers who access deep-sea fish often come in large groups on big boats, and there have been reports of the use of weapons and violence by poachers when threatened in other communities in South Africa. However, a fishing cooperative combined with a local monitoring representative that has the legal authority for law enforcement may prevent illegal poaching to a great extent.

In order to promote sustainability of the marine resources, a cooperative that has access to what their subsistence permits currently provide- linefish, mussels, and oysters, in addition to abalone if it is approved, will hopefully have a positive impact on the community. A business plan is currently being drafted in order to apply for funding for this initiative to start in the near future. While a fishing cooperative will likely allow fishermen to access the sea at sustainable levels, reduce poaching, and gain access to fair markets, there is still the need to create other opportunities of employment in Hamburg. There are several people involved in art and tourism projects, which provide other forms of income, and more initiatives such as these are needed to prevent more pressure on the already declining marine resources.