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South Africa ruling affirms traditional fishing rights by SUE BLAINE May 23,2012   |  Source: Business Day

In a first for South Africa, a magistrate ruled yesterday that the fishing tradition of a Wild Coast community gave them a constitutionally protected customary right to fish in a marine protected area inside the Dwesa-Cwebe Reserve.

This means SA’s legal system has taken a step towards recognising customary fishing rights, as is the case with the recognised rights of traditional communities in places such as Canada, Norway, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

Elliotdale magistrate Greg Nel convicted three members of the Hobeni community for contravening the Marine Living Resources Act, but said the ban on the community fishing in the marine reserve amounted to "a complete extinguishment of (their) customary rights".

The three would now go to the high court in Mthatha to challenge their conviction for contravening the Marine Living Resources Act by entering the reserve and fishing, or attempting to fish, after the magistrate said he had no authority to strike down the provisions of the act, Legal Resources Centre attorney Wilmien Wicomb said yesterday.

Mr Nel said he had no choice but to convict the three of this charge — one of four charges that they faced — because it was not within his powers as a magistrate to make declarations on the


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