Where can I get a Fishing License in South Africa?

Fishing is one of the oldest activities in human history. As long as people have had access to a large enough body of water, they’ve been fishing. Perhaps you want to continue this hallowed tradition, maybe you hope to make a profit from your catch and start a business, or possibly you just need a new hobby to relax, regardless of your choice, you’ll need a fishing license. So where do you get one? And what happens if you’re caught without it?

The easiest way to get a fishing license is to apply at your local post office. Illegal fishing usually does not result in serious legal repercussions and the guilty party will normally be issued with a ‘light fine’. In actuality, you can get most fishing licenses from any office sanctioned by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), but if you aren’t sure where to go, the post office is probably your best bet.

If you don’t feel like standing in queues at the post office for hours on end (smart choice) you can also register for most recreational permits online via the virtual post office.

Where can I get a fishing license in South Africa?

The most common permits are priced as follows –

Permit Type  Monthly RateYearly Rate
AnglingR52R76
SpearfishingR57R94
Cast netR57R94
Drag Net (prawn catch limit determined by province)No monthly permitR94
Mussels (catch limit determined by province)No monthly permitR94
Oysters (catch limit determined by province)No monthly permitR94
Scuba DivingR49R92
West + East Coast Lobsters (Crayfish)No monthly permitR94

Other permits not found at the post office can usually be obtained by contacting the DEFF directly. It is very important to ensure that the permit you are obtaining is the correct one for the type of fishing you intend to do.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after

– Henry David Thoreau

What are the Different types of Fishing Licenses?

Most of the permits mentioned so far are referred to as Recreational Fishing Licences which are generally administered for fishing done for sport or pleasure.

What are the different types of fishing licenses?

There are, however, other types of fishing permits that may be required depending on the fishing you intend to do, some of these permits are listed below along with the relevant contact and application information –

  • Local fishing vessel license – If you wish to operate a local fishing vessel you will need both a safety certification from the South African Maritime Safety Authority as well as a DEFF license.
  • Foreign fishing vessel license – Fishing with a vessel registered with a different country will also require its own permit
  • Fish processing establishment (FPE) permit – Opening an FPE first requires a fishing right, once this right is acquired you may apply for a permit that will allow the operation of such an establishment.
  • Subsistence and small-scale fishing license – Much like recreational fishing permits, subsistence fishing licenses are much easier and cheaper to obtain and will allow the recipient to engage in various small-scale fishing operations.

The costs of fishing licenses vary wildly depending on their type, but the wisest assumption is that the more fish you’ll be catching, the higher the cost of the license will be.

What are the limits to Recreational Fishing Licenses?

Most readers are probably not in the market for opening large-scale fish processing plants. No doubt, the majority of you will simply be wondering how many Shad or Crayfish you can take off your local beach and what license you need to do that.

Such readers may wish to consult the Marine Recreational Activity Brochure, this handy (if somewhat cluttered) informational document offers all the relevant details regarding what you can and cannot catch, where to do it, when to do it and even how to do it.

The most relevant limits to the average fisher/diver are as follows –

NameMinimum SizeBag limit (per day)
Shad30cm4
Hakenone5
KingklipNone1
Snoek60cm10
Crayfish80mm4
Clamnone8 (only by hand)
Octopusnone2 (only by hand, rod or line)
Prawnnone50 (only by hand and certain traps)
Mussels35mm50 (only with hand, blade or flat edge >12mm)

Keep in mind, much of the marine life mentioned as well as many others have specific areas and times at which they may be caught. Make sure you check the relevant information before attempting capture.

It is also important to note that recreational licenses do not allow the holder to sell or trade their catch. In order to engage in such practises, you must first gain some form of a commercial fishing license. 

What Fines will I face if I Fish Without a License?

So let’s say you’re caught fishing without the proper permit, or maybe you have a license but you went over the bag limit. What kind of punishment are you in for?

Illegal fishing usually does not result in serious legal repercussions and the guilty party will normally be issued with a ‘light fine’. These fines do not have a fixed rate and the amount you will be asked to pay will often be at the discretion of the court. Commonly, the penalty will increase based on the amount of sea life caught, in other words, each catch over the limit will normally raise the cost of the fine.

So if, for example, you catch 1 crayfish over your bag limit or without a license, you will probably be looking at a fairly small fine. If however, you manage to pull in 100 extra crayfish over your bag limit, the subsequent fine will most likely be much, much harsher.

Where can I get a fishing license in South Africa?

Recreational fishers have often reported fines of around R250 when caught without a license. While others, who were caught with 10 fish over the bag limit as well as excess crayfish reported a fine of R5000.

On the other hand, foreign commercial fishing vessels found illegally fishing off South Africa’s coast were fined well over R1 000 000 for their troubles. If you do find yourself on the receiving end of a recreational fishing fine, you can usually treat it like a speeding fine. Either make your payment and be done with it or show up to court and plead your case in person.

If instead you’re caught illegally operating a fleet of unregistered fishing vessels as well as multiple fish processing plants, it would probably be in your best interest to hire a very talented lawyer.

Is Fishing allowed during Lockdown in South Africa?

With lockdown protocols being increased and decreased every other week it’s difficult to know if you’re even allowed onto the beach, let alone whether or not you’re allowed to fish while you’re there.

While many beaches are still closed to the general populace, permit-holding fishermen are allowed to fish before curfew hours.

At the time of writing, the country is currently at adjusted level 3 lockdown, this level allows fishing for license-holders but it is always wise to make sure before going out as the rules and regulations tend to change often.

In Conclusion – Where can you get a fishing license in South Africa and what happens if you’re caught fishing without one?

Most recreational fishing licenses and permits can be obtained either at your local post office or online via the digital post office. Other, more niche licenses such as permits for fishing vessels and processing establishments are harder to obtain and usually involve contacting the DEFF directly.

If you are caught fishing without a permit or if you are found to possess a catch that surpasses your bag limit (if you have more fish than your license allows) you will most likely be charged with a fine.

The fine you will receive will vary in severity depending on the amount of illegal catch you are found with. The more things you catch illegal, the higher the fine will normally be.

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot

– Steven Wright

During the adjusted lockdown level 1-5 Covid 19 approach, permit-holding individuals are allowed onto the beaches to engage in fishing, however, the current lockdown curfew still applies. The lockdown procedures change constantly, so it is always in your best interest to check if this measure is still allowed before going out.

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although in many instances, our posts cite the constitution, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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1 Response

  1. March 24, 2021

    […] Punishments for illegal fishing are normally determined by the type of fish caught and the amount caught. The most common penalty for illegal spearfishing would be a small fine, although this is assuming that the spearfisher is caught with ‘common fish’ or with numbers that slightly exceed the bag limit.  […]

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