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‘Fishing is not for the faint-hearted’… it is a tough world out there

2021-04-30  Eveline de Klerk

‘Fishing is not for the faint-hearted’… it is a tough world out there
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Unlike working on land, fishermen and those out on the open seas face a different working environment.  

Not only are they exposed to the rough and unpredictable weather of the ocean, but often risk their lives.

These are the men and women who go out in the ocean on fishing vessels, with some spending as much as three months to make sure their families are taken care of, and most importantly to keep the fishing industry going.

“Fishing is not for the faint-hearted, and definitely requires you to be both mentally and physically tough,” says retired fishermen Johan Basson, who has worked both in South Africa and Namibia as a skipper.

The 70-year-old Basson, who worked on hake, or rather stokvis as he refers to it, has been working in the Atlantic Ocean even before Walvis Bay gained independence.

 He was introduced to fishing by his father, who was also a fisherman in the olden days.  

“My father and a couple of his friends would daily go out to sea to catch fish to either sell, or for us to eat.  The whole cycle was fascinating, and that is how I developed a passion for fishing,” he explained.

Absalom Nangombe is also a former fisherman, and explained that the job may sound glamorous or adventurous, but it is not.

He said it is hard work under unsettling conditions, especially on the deck of the vessels.

“I can honestly say from my experience at sea that it is completely an unknown world, especially when the sea gets rough.  I am sure that every fisherman at some stage faced unfavourable weather conditions, or a faulty engine that made them wonder whether they would make it back home alive,” Nangombe said

Sylvester van Wyk, who recently started his career on a fishing vessel, says he is disappointed by the fact that many fishermen earn meagre salaries. 

“There are only three things we do at sea. We work, eat and sleep, and then start the whole process over every day,” he noted. 

He said unions and the labour ministry should advocate for better working conditions and compensation for the industry as fishermen are the backbone of the fishing sector.

“It is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and everyone from the rights holders to the factory workers should be compensated and live decent lives,” he stressed.

Unionist Paulus Hango echoed similar sentiments, saying the industry should revive talks of a minimum wage to make sure that everyone is compensated decently.

“This has been highlighted on several occasions. It is just a matter of getting together and approaching it as a unit,” he said.

2021-04-30  Eveline de Klerk

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