Who we are

This short animation from the Lalela uLwandle illustrates why small-scale and subsistence fishers are an important voice in the fight for ocean wellbeing.

If you are interested in fishing in South Africa, how our cultural heritage links to the oceans or marine conservation then there is no better group to ask than the people who spend their lives on the shoreline and at sea. Many fishers, if approached with respect and genuine interest, can tell the most incredible tales of their adventures with the sea.

If you would like to find out more about how subsistence and small-scale fishers fit into the ocean governance landscape them please do listen to the wonderful research-based storytelling on the Lalela uLwandle podcast, or watch this short animation on how fishing, traditional knowledge and intangible heritage are a reason enough to say No! to oil & gas in our oceans!

History of fishing in Kwazulu-Natal

The history of fishing in KwaZulu-Natal, where this project originates, is a history of the diverse people who live in this coastal province. During colonial and apartheid administration fishers who were racialized as Black, Coloured and Indian faced discriminatory and unjust regulations. These regulations privileged both fishers racialized as White and commercial fishing industry over subsistence and small-scale fishing. There are many harrowing accounts of fishers up and down the KwaZulu-Natal coast being violently harassed by law enforcement and conservation authorities. These oppressive experiences are shared with many fishers in other coastal provinces in South Africa. Under apartheid many coastal communities were forcibly removed away from the coast to make space for tourism and leisure activities, coastal mining, and wildlife conservation. These coastal histories need to be remembered if we are to ensure a more just and inclusive ocean governance. Neelan Govender and Viroshen Chetty’s Legend’s of the Tide: roots of the Durban fishing industry gives an excellent history of some of these oppressions in Durban, and clearly documents how much the fishing industry owes to the indentured labourers who arrived here from India in the 1800s. Their knowledge of the sea and seine-netting is still used today in Durban’s famous annual sardine run.

While racist legislation and regulations have been overturned and more democratic policy frameworks passed in South Africa post 1994, many subsistence and small-scale fishers remain vulnerable and face complex permitting regulations that impact negatively on their livelihoods and on their ability to practice fishing as part of their cultural heritage. These fishers continue to negotiate with the current South African government to advocate for their inclusion, not only in the Fisheries policies, but in broader ocean governance forums such as the Ocean Economy master Plan and Marine Spatial Planning. If you are interested in this please read the Cast Out report for a case study of current exclusion faced by Fishers in KZN.


Increasingly fisher’s organisations along the country’s coast are pushing back against environmental harmful oil & gas drilling of the seabed, and against pollutions that harm marine life. Fishers, as the stories here illustrate, are acutely aware of the climate crisis effecting our oceans. Fishers in Durban and elsewhere have staged protests and marches against companies that pollute our oceans, and against both national and international oil & gas companies looking to prospect and drill the ocean bed.