Covid-19 Impacts on Small-scale Fisheries

Date: April 13, 2021
Time: 11:00-13:00
Venue: Zoom meeting

This meeting of the Food Governance-Community of Practice Meeting (FG-CoP) will look at the role of small-scale traditional fisheries as an important source of livelihoods and nutrition, particularly for coastal communities. 

To register for the Zoom meeting, click this link. (You will receive a confirmation email from Florian Kroll.)



  • Prof Moenieba Isaacs (Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies – PLAAS) and
  • Craig Smith (World Wide Fund for Nature)



  • Naseegh Jaffer (Masifundise)
  • Tracey Dennis (PLAAS)
  • Joseph Ginindza (PLAAS)
  • Nicholas Taylor, aka Oom Ka (Kleinmond fishing community)

Small-scale traditional fisheries constitute an important source of livelihoods and nutrition, particularly for coastal communities. The mandate for governance of fisheries is located at National level with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). The red-list developed by WWF-SASSI highlights environmental management issues, limiting the viability of local markets for some species. However, the food security and livelihoods dimensions of small-scale fisheries also require attention or small-scale fishers will continue to be sidelined as primary custodians of marine and riverine resources, struggling to access adequate infrastructure and markets.

COVID-19 emergency regulations prohibited small-scale fisheries from selling and transporting their fish to locals directly in an informal and traditional way by Langanas (Value chain middlemen). Covid-19 also disrupted international markets for high-value catch such as crayfish that were key sources of income for small-scale fishing communities.

A major underlying issue, in particular for small-scale fishers in the Western Cape Province is that the rights have still not been formalised. Government continues to issue the rights in the Province in form “Interim Relief Measures”, which results in uncertainty and inability to plan among the (potential) rights holders.

To set the scene for this online dialogue, Prof Moenieba Isaacs (UWC Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies), a long-standing scholar-activist in the fisheries domain, and Craig Smith, Senior Manager of the WWF Marine Programme will present findings from recent research among affected communities. This will be followed by a panel discussion with Naseegh Jaffer of Masifundise (an NGO promoting the rights of small-scale fisheries), Tracey Dennis (PLAAS PhD student) and representatives of affected communities, leading into an open discussion with CoP members. This dialogue intersects with a National strategic forum convened by Masifundise on 12-14 April to reflect on experiences and develop greater visibility as a movement. .


  • How did Covid-19 and the lockdown regulations affect small-scale fisheries?
  • How did state actors interpret and implement lockdown regulations for small-scale fisheries?
  • To what extent were the interests and concerns of small-scale fisheries taken into account?
  • How did fishing communities and civil society organisations respond to Covid-19 and lockdown?
  • What policy instruments and programmes are in place to enable recovery?
  • How can the knowledge and networks of fishing communities be leveraged for more democratic, responsive and localised governance?
  • What can we learn to enhance resilience to future shocks?

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