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Fishing communities have been hard hit in recent times due to depleted fish stocks and uncertainty over fishing rights. A series of workshops on sustainable fishing is helping to restore hope and bringing together small-scale fishers along the length of our coastline.
Like most seasoned fishermen, Moegamat Toyer Cozyn’s days usually start at the crack of dawn.
A fourth generation fisherman who grew up in Steenberg, Cozyn will leave his home in the southern suburbs and drive for two hours to Cape Point to run his traditional chuckie boat, Katsberg, at sunrise – a good time as that’s when many fish come to the surface to feed.
A fisherman’s day is governed by many things – the weather, stock availability and importantly, time. Cozyn usually raises the anchor around lunchtime and heads to the Kalk Bay market in time to sell his catch in the afternoon.
This week, Cozyn was one of a roomful of fishers from the Grassy Park, Retreat and Steenberg areas in Cape Town who attended a skills development project workshop* being rolled out across coastal South Africa to educate and empower small-scale fishing communities on the importance of sustainable fishing.
The first community workshop was hosted started in March this year and plans are to hold 36 community workshops over the next two years to reach around 850 small-scale fishers across the four coastal provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape.
“I have a great appreciation for the sea. My conscience won’t allow me to throw plastic in the sea. But not everyone is the same,” says Cozyn. He believes that learning about sustainability should be essential for the environment as well as his pocket.
Like many small-scale and commercial fishers in his community, Cozyn faces many struggles, from rights allocations to competing with bigger boats to general maintenance of Katsberg – his gearbox is currently on the fritz.
“Like with any ecosystem, there are knock-on effects in the life-cycle of fishing. You have to make decisions on whether it’s worth going out to sea because you risk running at a loss. ‘A’ has to sustain ‘B’. For example, if your boat needs repairs and your sea-worthy licence is about to expire, or the weather is bad – you can’t get enough income to sustain your vessel.”
Cozyn feels that awareness and education on policies, environmental sustainability and how communities can become self-sustaining to make a profit for the benefit of all, is key.
Training the trainers
The Small-scale Responsible Fisheries Training Project was conceptualised by the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA). It is co-ordinated nationally, by the International Ocean Institute - African Region (IOI-SA) and is funded by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA).
Train-the-trainer workshops have been hosted in Cape Town, Port St Johns and Umhlanga to upskill trainers who go on to facilitate further community workshops. These facilitators have already run courses in Kleinmond, Gugulethu, Doringbaai, Papendorp, Struisbaai and Retreat in the Western Cape, Hondeklipbaai in the Northern Cape and Kenton-on-Sea and Hamburg in the Eastern Cape.
This training aligns with the imminent roll-out of the government’s Small-scale Fisheries Policy which has a strong focus on communities working together in co-operatives and ensuring sustainable management of fish stocks through quotas.
Trainers learn more about responsible fishing practices and how to share that information effectively. It also inspires community leaders to feel empowered to explore partnerships that could complement this training through other sources of funding for additional or complementary training events.
Looking to the future
The hope is that attendees will pass on their knowledge and encourage responsible decisions for the sustainability of fisheries and the marine environment.
One of the presiding facilitators at the workshop in Retreat, William August from Kleinmond, says, “I believe that people must progress. It is important to me that people are empowered and educated and that they can be part of the planning process for development.”
Fellow facilitator Grace Adams feels the workshops can help unite fishing communities. “The workshops bring fishers together and give them a platform to raise their voices.”
Cozyn is in agreement – his son is also in the business and he hopes he will continue the tradition.
“There’s more to fishing than just catching fish, there’s so much related to the product and the processing. We need to find out how to stretch our product further,” he says.
“We need education and awareness. It’s not just about getting a quota over so many years – it’s about what you’re going to do about it.”
*A steering committee oversees the Small-scale Responsible Fisheries Training Project including representatives from the South African United Fishing Front (SAUFF), Masifundise, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA), the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA), the International Ocean Institute - African Region ( IOI-SA) and Abalobi.
This story was first published in the New Age newspaper.