Fishing boats in Gansbaai harbour. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Fishing boats in Gansbaai harbour. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Sea Harvest CEO and SA Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association chair Felix Ratheb attempts the impossible by defending the centralisation of the large companies and their continued long-term domination of the fishing industry, in particular the hake deep-sea trawl fishery through the fishing rights allocation process (“Why fragmenting fishing rights could actually harm black-owned SMMEs”, February 20).

He admits that “the proposition that additional opportunities should be created in the fishery for black-owned SMMEs is less easy to dispel because it goes right to the heart of the government’s macroeconomic policy, which entrenches SMMEs as drivers of economic growth, transformation and job creation”.

The trawling industry created immense wealth for a few companies and individuals, leaving the majority — including fisherpeople, factory workers and often whole towns — impoverished. The association’s argument that a pitiful trickle down to SMME’s will in some way overcome this shameful apartheid legacy is ludicrous and wishful thinking.

Even by Ratheb’s own figures just 7% of the industry’s annual sales of R4.5bn, a measly R318.4m, is spent “with SMMEs [and] is directed at black- and female-owned businesses”. By the industry’s argument, fisherpeople and their SMMEs should not be granted quotas, nor should they own boats and processing plants, but must wait for crumbs from the master’s table.

It would be reckless for the government to rely on this approach if it is serious about really transforming the industry, the coastal towns and alleviating the extreme poverty fisher communities face. Real community development means fishers and their SMMEs, with government support, should be allowed to leverage their considerable ability to to alleviate poverty through job creation and HR development.

The monopolies and Ratheb’s article show they will always oppose this.

John Reed
Regent of the Korana Royal
Small-Scale Fisheries Indigenous Council

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