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Small Scale Fisheries Movement against fishing quotas, South Africa

The allocation of fishing rights in South Africa has led to controversies for more than a decade. The legislations have been favoring large-scale and commercial fishing sector, which has resulted in dispossession of small-scale fishers.


"Capture fishing in South Africa provides livelihoods for many coastal communities, a large part of which engages in small-scale fishing. Of the 43,458 commercial fishers and 29,233 subsistence fishers in South Africa, approximately 50,000 are considered small scale". [1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Small Scale Fisheries Movement against fishing quotas, South Africa
Country:South Africa
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Fish
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

In South Africa, fish consumption rose by 26% between 1999 and 2012. "In 2012, the fishing industry contributed approximately USD 435 million to the South African economy – increasing by USD 113 million since 2008" [1].

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Level of Investment:N/A
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:200,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Relevant government actors:Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF);
Equality High Court
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Masifundise:,
Coastal Links:
La Via Campesina
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsRemoving the fishing rights of traditional small-scale fisher people
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:The fisher organisations ask for a human-rights based approach in the fisheries regulations and policies that would protect the rights of small-scale and subsistence fishers.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the decision of the Equality High Court has protected the rights of small-scale fisher people and the government adopted targets to address their rights, it is not clear to what extent the forthcoming fisheries regulations and policies will protect their human-rights and ensure fisheries and environmental justice.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Implicating ‘fisheries justice’ movements in food and climate politics (Mills 2018, Third World Quarterly) [1]
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Rights and wrongs: The South African case of fishing rights allocation (Masifundise, 2014) [2]
[click to view]

Coastal Links, South Africa [3]
[click to view]

Fishers march into government offices (GroundUp News, 22.09.2017) [4]
[click to view]

Hout Bay residents call for solidarity with Hangberg (GroundUp News, 22.09.2017) [6]
[click to view]

Small-Scale Fishers In South Africa struggling for survival as the Government pushes for permits and corporate investments (La Via Campesina, 26.09.2017) [7]
[click to view]

GroundUp: Small scale fishers demand their rights (Daily Maverick, 28.11.2016) [8]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

DAFF official addresses protesting fishers (22.09.2017) [5]
[click to view]

Other documents

South African Fisher Groups in Protest South African Fisher Groups in Protest
[click to view]

South African Fisher Groups in Protest - 2 In Hamberg, different groups claim their fishing rights and housing rights are reclaimed
[click to view]

Fisher people and fisher organisations like Masifundise protest the DAFF Fisher people and fisher organisations like Masifundise protest the DAFF
[click to view]

Fisher Groups in South Africa Protest Fishing Regulations - 4 Fisher Groups in South Africa Protest Fishing Regulations - 4
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Irmak Ertör, ENVJUSTICE, ICTA-UAB
Last update28/08/2018
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