National Geographic : 2014 Dec
82 national geographic • december 2014 of 35 knots—conditions that keep recreation- al boats off the water and stir up the bottom, providing food for the fish. After half an hour, he pulled the net in. We had three small harders. Cormorants had taken another two. That was it for fishing. We motored around the lagoon, and Oom Billie named every rock, point, bay, and reef we passed. I had heard it said that Langebaaners can navigate their lagoon blindfolded. But their world has changed utterly. With a casino at one end and seaside mansions choking the cliffs at the other, Langebaan has become a resort, and the sea a playground for the rich, not a workplace for the poor. Oom Billie pointed to properties on the Lange- baan shorefront that the community had owned restricted zone. He would most likely have his boat and gear confiscated. But this would not stop the fishermen from trespassing to catch mullet. They refuse to accept the legitimacy of the zoning divisions, and they dispute the gov- ernment’s assessments of fish stocks. By their reckoning, they are not robbing the bank but exerting their rights—not just as customers but as foundation shareholders. Did the maritime authorities talk to them about zoning, or how best to manage the la- goon? I asked. Did the marine scientists ask them to share their knowledge? “Nooit!” they said. “Never!” Smith was wearing a sea blue T-shirt with the slogan, “Unite and fight for fishers’ rights.” before apartheid came. Then a line was drawn— white people to the south, coloured people to the north—and a community was upended. Now there are lines in the sea. In 1985 an MPA was created, and the lagoon was partitioned into three zones. The fishermen are permitted to cast their nets only in a recreational zone adjacent to the town, which they must share with up to 400 powerboats and an armada of kiteboards and Jet Skis. They say that all this traffic drives schooling harders into the two-thirds of the lagoon where they are not allowed to fish. To the fishing community, the MPA looks like another kind of forced removal. Not a symbol of promise—nature’s bank, with interest payments for all—but a continuing sentence of exclusion and denial. I joined a group of fishermen at the home of Solene Smith, a community leader. They were sardined into a strip of shade behind the house, talking and passing a bottle. It was Sunday, drinking day. The firewater flowed, tears flowed, and the fire in their voices flamed. One of them was about to face prosecution for fishing in the Solidarity has emboldened the small-scale fish- ermen, and recent legal victories have strength- ened their cause. Courts have upheld the customary rights of traditional fishing commu- nities and required the government to modify its fisheries legislation to allow a community-based approach to managing marine resources. Many marine scientists view these develop- ments with dismay. “Just as we’re trying to reach conservation targets and open new protected ar- eas, existing MPAs are being put on the chop- ping block,” Mann told me. He and others have been working on an MPA expansion strategy that aims to have 15 percent of the country’s total marine territory under no-take protection by 2028—“an ambitious goal for any maritime nation,” he said. But under current conditions it is like trying to lay railroad tracks while behind you people are tearing up the rails and selling them for scrap. Even venerable Tsitsikamma, the country’s first marine reserve, created in 1964, is under threat, despite its importance as a popula- tion backstop for several linefish species. “We’ve tried very hard to reduce fishing In fish-loving, fishing-mad South Africa, the anguish of declining catches is acute.