South African Small-Scale Fisheries Project Links Fishing Co-op to Markets and Models Value Chain Innovation for New Fishery Law
Kleinmond, South Africa
Small-scale fishing in South Africa has been characterized by a system in which individual fishers are at the mercy of supply-chain middlemen and have no control over the prices they receive for their diminishing catches. To improve their incomes, fishers expanded their efforts, putting increased pressure on the area’s already overexploited marine resources, which include west coast rock lobster and line-caught fish species.
South Africa’s rocky Kogelberg coast southeast of Cape Town is home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the setting in which a newly formed women’s cooperative buys locally caught line-fish species from 15 fishers in Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, and Kleinmond Harbour, and then sells the product at higher minimum prices to local restaurants, chefs, and retailers committed to sustainably caught fish. Shortening the value chain so that fishers have greater access to markets at better prices required harnessing new legislation granting commercial fishing rights and marine management responsibilities to small-scale fishers working in newly formed cooperatives. Implementing this novel approach designed to contribute to local socio-economic development and help alleviate poverty required the support and participation of community fishers, NGOs, and businesses, as well as tourism, university, and government officials.
Policy reform creates opportunities to build local markets & strengthen sustainability
South Africa’s newly amended Small Scale Fisheries Policy allocates collective commercial rights to small-scale fisheries through cooperatives, encouraging fishers to work together to pursue legal and economically viable livelihoods and reverse the fragmentation under the previous system of individual permits that excluded them from the formal fisheries sector. Policy actions included the formation of a women’s fishing cooperative to operate a supply chain restaurant project and serve as the main local fishery and marine resource management body.
The nine-person women’s cooperative aimed to buy locally caught line-fish species from 80 fishers in Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, and Kleinmond Harbour, and then sell the product at higher minimum prices negotiated with two seafood restaurants: KabelJoe’s, a seafood and sushi establishment in Kleinmond Harbour, and On the Edge, at the new Stony Point Eco-Centre adjacent to a colony of endangered African penguins.
Fishing cooperative members sell fish to restaurants and manage all steps in the supply chain, from catch to product delivery. Cooperative members are expected to receive training about all steps in the supply chain. They also have resource monitoring responsibilities and compliance duties in managing the fishery and three cooperative members serve on the Kogelberg Coastal Marine Working Group to represent the fishing community.
Credible science: smart phone app records data, informs decisions
The program also aimed to move fishers from paper-based data collection to an integrated monitoring system via a smart phone application designed by the University of Cape Town. The system records catch data, supports supply chain traceability efforts, and informs co-management discussions with government partners. Staff trained fishers and government monitors to use the new cell phone application. In addition, business-management trainings were organized for cooperative members to prepare them to take over operation of the restaurant value chain project next year.
Build market demand, shorten value chain, boost seafood value
Building relationships with restaurants and retailers eager to meet customer demand for sustainable seafood, the cooperative works with local business and tourism authorities to build consumer awareness and demand for products that support fishing community livelihoods. Actions included:
- Two seafood restaurants buy catch from the cooperative at preferential prices
- Cooperative members received training from a notable chef on how to prepare fish for high-end restaurant markets
- The tourism bureau developed a culinary roots marketing campaign
- Plans to establish a fish market at Kleinmond Harbour are under development
How successful has it been?
As a novel approach to small-scale fisheries governance, the restaurant value-chain project provides a model for how other South African fishing communities can implement the new small-scale fishery policy and contribute to the revitalization of their coastal towns. Results included:
- Formation of a women’s cooperative
- Participation of two restaurants and many others have expressed interest
- Piloting of IMS smart phone application tool for data collection and traceability to be rolled out nationally as part of the small-scale fisheries policy
- Pick n Pay indicated a commitment to sell the cooperative’s pickled mussels at stores nationwide
Lessons learned and recommendations
The project has included capacity building for co-op members, use of a mobile application to record catch data, and early-stage development of this local market. It should be emphasized that the six-month project timeline was too short to demonstrate positive ecological impact and also noted that providing immediate tangible benefits to fisherfolk would improve buy-in for future projects.
50in10 provided World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) with technical assistance and a $25,000 matching grant to support outreach and the salary for a local coordinator.
Partners include World Wildlife Fund South Africa; Kogelberg Small-Scale Fishers, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Hangklip Kleinmond Tourism Bureau; the Overstrand Local Economic Development Office; Kogelberg Coast Marine Working Group; CapeNature; University of Cape Town; local restaurants; and Pick n Pay, a supermarket chain.