Over the past 20 years, Uncle Wally Kroom, a retired fisherman from Yzerfontein, South Africa, served as a dedicated advocate for line fishermen. He engaged with government departments to represent hand line fisherman interests and ensure their fair treatment. South African line fishing is divided into three zones, and Uncle Wally represents the entire sector.
Tragically, in 2022, Uncle Wally passed away, leaving a void in representation for line fishermen. In response, a group of senior line fishermen gathered to select a new chairman to fill this role. The decision was unanimous, and the role was assigned to the narrator of this story, who was chosen due to their experience in catching, buying and selling fish, as well as their familiarity with permitting and departmental matters.
The new chairman began by formalising the Line Fish Association, creating a constitution, and establishing a transparent bank account. The main issue the association faced was the unfair allocation of fishing rights, with line fishermen receiving only 7 years compared to 15 years granted to other sectors. To address this, they rallied support from the fishing community, secured funding, and engaged a lawyer to challenge the decision in court. As of now, the case is ongoing.
In addition to this legal battle, the chairman has interacted with political figures, including John Steenhuisen and Premier Alan Winde, to address various challenges faced by the fishing community. One significant issue was the buildup of sand in Struisbaai Harbor, hindering boat launches and affecting the local economy.
The chairman's role involves dealing with various issues, both major and minor, while striving to represent the interests of line fishermen in a rapidly changing fishing industry dominated by industrial and mechanised methods. Despite the challenges, they are committed to being a voice for line fishermen and ensuring their survival for future generations. Their tenure as chairman will continue until February next year, with the possibility of re-election.