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.