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Small-scale fishers in the Kogelberg face tough times, but a young man from Kleinmond has joined hands with the World Wide Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) to help his community to prepare themselves for the future.
Twenty-year-old Marcelin Barry was raised in Kleinmond and has become quite popular along the Kogelberg coast. For two reasons – his impressive rugby skills as a wing for the Kleinmond Rugby Club (he’s one of the youngest players in the first team) and his exceptional “people skills” in supporting local small-scale fishers.
He has admiration for his mother, a former fishing rights holder and one of few women to have gone to sea on a fishing boat, and his father, who works at the penguin colony at Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay. Both have greatly influenced his ambitions.
For six months Barry has been interning as a fishers assistant, working as a liaison with fishers from his own community as well as those of Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay, all of whom have been involved in some of WWF-SA’s fisheries improvement projects along the Kogelberg coast.
Seafood Market Transformation Manager for WWF-SA, Chris Kastern, has been mentoring Barry who has been granted a government sponsored internship through the National Rural Youth Service Corps. This mentorship will end in July, a few days before Barry sets off to study Human Resource Management at Boland College in Paarl.
With a natural flair for technological devices, Barry has been able to assist local fishers to electronically record their catches on their smartphones using apps developed as part of a project called Abalobi (www.abalobi.info).
“I work really well with the fishers. When they see me in the street, we’ll talk about Abalobi and we have a great respect for each other,” says Barry.
Over time, the fishers should ultimately be able to use the Abalobi platform to communicate directly with local restaurants and consumers so that they can sell their catch and get a fair return for their efforts at sea.
Barry also knows the many hardships facing fishers, with fishing rights and permits being a common concern. He feels that one of the ways to encourage communities to help manage their marine resources responsibly is to provide alternative methods of income.
“Many young people still want to be involved in the fishing sector but they can’t just rely on going out to sea anymore. Our people need more than that. They need other opportunities – alternative work options and livelihoods and things that the youth can be involved in,” says Barry.
Despite having grown up so near the sea, Marcelin went out on a boat for the first time this year as part of a WWF-SA and MovingSushi community driven research project using baited remote underwater videos, or BRUVs as they are better known.
The BRUVs provide video recordings of marine life inside and outside of the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA) and will provide insights as to how key linefish and West Coast rock lobster stocks are looking along the Kogelberg coast.
Says Kastern, Barry’s mentor: “These kinds of projects can only be successful when people work together towards a common goal, but achieving this kind of collective action is not always easy.
“It helps to have someone like Marcelin who is part of the Kleinmond community and who understands the struggles faced by fishers. It is great to see someone like him from the younger generation playing this role. His willingness to take opportunities and make the most of them has been inspirational!”