Western Cape fishing harbours are critical contributors to our economy | Western Cape Government

Western Cape fishing harbours are critical contributors to our economy

Our 12 fishing harbours have the potential to deliver a significant job creation and economic growth boost to the residents of the Western Cape. Camps Bay harbour

The 12 fishing harbours including Stilbaai, Lamberts Bay, St Helena Bay, Saldanha Bay, Gansbaai, Arniston, Kleinmond, Hermanus, Struisbaai, Gordon’s Bay, Kalk Bay and Hout Bay, all have a critical role to fulfil in attracting long-term investment and supporting fishing communities by providing them with access to other economic opportunities. 

Unlocking the potential of our small harbours

Our provincial Coastal Management Programme (CMP) is aimed at unlocking the social and economic potential of all our small harbours, slipways and river mouths as a focus for local economic development and job creation in support of national project, Operation Phakisa.

During the first phase of Operation Phakisa 4 priority sectors have been identified, including:

  • marine transport and manufacturing activities, such as coastal shipping, trans-shipment, boat building, repair and refurbishment,
  • offshore oil and gas exploration,
  • aquaculture and marine protection services, and
  • ocean governance.

The Western Cape accounts for 71% of employment in the fishing industry alone. This impact is seen in areas such as the northern part of the Saldanha Bay Harbour, which is a regional hub of fishing activity. The Sea Harvest processing plant is the largest employer in Saldanha Bay and is directly and indirectly responsible for between 4 000 and 5 000 jobs. 

Our harbours also play a critical role in creating jobs through tourism. A study prepared for the Western Cape Government shows that the most unique potential role of harbours within the tourism value chain is in terms of marine access, with specific opportunities, including: 

  • charters and specialist boat trips: whale watching, adventure, nature, game fishing, shark cage diving, island trips, cuisine and entertainment, and fishing trawler
  • sailing, power boating, and personal watercraft related activities, including marina facilities and routes and recreational fishing.

The CMP aims to create “better targeted investment from government and non-government organisations to support sustainable coastal development.” However, we recognise the fact that the opportunities will not be equally available to all harbours, due to issues such as sea and weather conditions, and scale of market opportunity. The contribution to our economy can’t be overstated.

The management of the Western Cape coast presents a wide variety of challenges and opportunities, as a wide variety of communities and industries, from all sectors of the economy, are dependent on our coastline and fishing harbours for their livelihoods.

Up to now the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been managing these harbours and allowed them to fall into disrepair. 

However, the constitutional mandate for harbours actually lies with local government. We have therefore been engaging with the national government to try and unlock the socio-economic potential of these harbours and to renegotiate the management of our fishing harbours. While these negotiations are ongoing, we’ve also started the process of drafting bylaws that will empower our local municipalities to manage the harbours.

We strongly believe that the successful management of these areas is key to helping the local communities to benefit from planned investments, and we’re committed to seeing the successful transfer of harbour management to Western Cape municipalities.

 Proposed upgrades by National Government

In August, National Government made some crucial announcements regarding our harbours, including:

  • the establishment of a Small Harbours Development Authority,
  • the rehabilitation, upgrade and redevelopment of some small harbours as well as the proclamation of new harbours to be integrated with national coastal projects, and fishing boat
  • the rehabilitation and development of Gansbaai, Saldanha Bay, Struisbaai, Gordon’s Bay and Lambert’s Bay. 

The cost of the first 2 phases of the project, to be carried out from this year to 2018, is estimated at R395 million and involves plans to redesign harbours to make them more productive and pedestrian friendly.

While the identified harbours do indeed require upgrading and rehabilitation, all 12 are in fact in desperate need of restoration.

"We have a plan that would allow our fishing harbours to become hot spots of job creation and economic development, and our plan would free up our fishing communities to become prosperous and job-creating,” Zille said.

We want to reassure our fishing communities that we’re 100% committed to the process of unlocking the potential of our small harbours so that they can become well managed, world-class facilities that are sustainable and create more opportunities, jobs and better livelihoods for  fishing communities.

The content on this page was last updated on 20 October 2015