Defending the ocean at the kelp roots: Stories from Small scale fisher ocean defenders in South Africa

When? Date to be confirmed

Where? Link for Registration to follow

This panel forms part of the School for Water Defenders

Themes addressed: Human rights, extractive industries in the ocean and the challenges for sustainable and inclusive blue economies; Ocean and river defenders; The human rights dimensions of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (2022); Customary law and cultural heritage in the context of lakes, seas and rivers

Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect – Wangari Maathai.

“There are no human rights without human rights defenders”. Ndifuna Ukwazi, 2022.

“Despite the language and awareness of human rights being all around us, prominent in our political discourse, in our international laws and in our national identity, there is a gap between this rhetoric and the lived realities of so many people trying to access those rights on a daily basis.

There are also critiques of the dominance of human rights as a concept; both because the language and legal frameworks for human rights are very western; and because of concerns about the emphasis on human rights being used to reinforce the false dichotomy between humans and nature. However, through the leadership of intersectional, decolonial and indigenous environmental movements, and the expansion by these groups of limited western legal notions of rights, to include the sovereign rights of rivers, mountains, ocean and earth; and through the courageous work of environmental human rights defenders who risk their lives to defend their community-ecosystems, we are shown how human and environmental rights are one and the same, and how the wellbeing of people and wellbeing of earth is indivisible.”[1]

This panel engages small scale fishers who face the double edged burden of 1. constant exclusions from decisions affecting the ocean, and exclusions from the ocean commons through blunt conservation and regulation measures and 2. playing a critical role in defending the ocean against large scale extraction and damage. As custodians of the ocean for the common good, the perspectives of small-scale fisher, ocean defenders hold significant guidance for movement building and coastal justice. Panelists will reflect on their involvement in resisting and seeking alternatives to ocean oil and gas exploration, coastal mining, enclosure of the ocean commons and un-democratic ocean governance.

Speakers include:

Christian Adams – Small Scale Fishers Collective

Ntsindiso Nongcavu – Coastal Links Eastern Cape

Hilda Adams – Small Scale Fishers Collective

Taryn Pereira – Coastal Justice Network / Rhodes University

Aphiwe Moshani – Coastal Justice Network / University of Cape Town


[1] Text taken from a recent blogpost by the host of this session: https://www.thebeachcoop.org/2022/03/18/human-rights-and-coastal-justice/

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