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“The Hunger To Exploit All Remaining Oil and Gas is Wrecking Local Community Livelihoods”

The Green Connection
The Green Connection
In September 2021 (Heritage month), as part of The Green Connection’s International Oceans Tribunal, several fishermen and women – from Port St Johns and Gqeberha in Eastern Cape, from Knysna and Saldanha Bay/Langebaan in Western Cape, and also Port Nolloth, Alexander Bay and Hondeklipbaai in Northern Cape – got the chance to voice their dissatisfaction at being excluded from decisions about the natural resources they depend on. The Oceans Tribunal gave fishing communities a platform to articulate and honestly explore all the threats that ongoing oil and gas exploration (as well as the Karpowerships) will pose to their livelihoods.
Government’s plans to exploit the oceans, through Operation Phakisa, is costing the country’s subsistence fishers their livelihoods, affecting fishing communities that have been dependent on oceans for decades.
Subsistence fisher and member of Coastal Links Port St John’s, Ntsindiso Nongcavu says, “The people of Port St Johns live along the coast and have relied on the ocean for years to provide for their families but now they see politicians conspiring with people in the commercial industry to exploit the natural resources in our town. Community consultations are not taking place. And the sad part is, fishers must now apply for licenses, to be allowed to fish.”

Ntsindiso Nongcavu (top left), Solene Smith (top right) Carmelita Mostert (bottom left) Andy Pienaar (bottom right)
Ntsindiso Nongcavu (top left), Solene Smith (top right) Carmelita Mostert (bottom left) Andy Pienaar (bottom right)
Fisherwoman Carmelita Mostert, also with Coastal Links in Saldanha adds, “The fight for our environmental rights does not stop. Saldanha Bay has now been turned into an industrial hub at the cost of local fishermen and women.”
Another fisher from Knysna, Barend Fredricks says, “People want to return to their ancestral land to benefit from the natural resources. The government must not prevent us from doing so by introducing laws and regulations that are barriers to our customary rights.”
Andy Pienaar from Kobush, a community activist working with small-scale fishers in Northern Cape says, “We cannot afford to have oil and gas drilling or exploration. It will only lead to further violation of our natural resources and our environmental rights, and further destruction of our health and our well-being.” Lastly, Solene Smith a fisherwoman and also Coastal Links member adds that, as coastal communities they have always looked after the natural resources from the ocean by practising sustainable fishing to prevent overfishing and protect fragile ecosystems of the ocean, until government introduced legislations that affect them as fishers.
As we observe another World Fisheries Day, we call on government to recognise coastal communities and small-scale fishers as key stakeholders and custodians of the ocean who should be consulted in these matters, as it directly affects them. Small-scale fishing communities also demand a just transition energy plan, which will lead to the end of fossil fuels (and as such, no more offshore oil and gas drilling nor potentially harmful exploration activities). 
For more information about The Green Connection’s Who Stole Our Oceans campaign and the Oceans Tribunal, go towww.thegreenconnection.org.za or follow us on the socials: FacebookTwitter and YouTube.
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