Access and rights to the “marine commons’ in South Africa:

Perspectives, lessons and possibilities for future action

The coastal landscape, dividing life on earth from the unknown blue depths of the oceans has occupied a symbolic space in the spiritual, economic, social and political life of humankind since the beginning of time. People have lived on the coastal edge of the planet for millennia, sustaining themselves through utilising the variety of rich marine resources that this environment offers. It is estimated that 60 percent of the world’s population now lives within 60 kilometres of the coastline and that by 2025 this will rise to 75 percent of the population. This trend of increasing human settlement at the coast is apparent in both developing and developed countries and two thirds of the world’s largest cities are located at the coast . The migration towards the coast over the past century has brought with it increasing pressure on these natural resources, resulting in some instances in over-exploitation. For example, during the past three decades the global demand for fish and fish products has increased, more than doubling from 45 million tons to 91 million tons and it is anticipated that the demand for fish will outpace the ability of the world to supply fish. Most fish stocks are classed as fully exploited. Already the worlds largest consumer and producer of fish, China, is producing more fish within its fish farms (20 million tons) than it captures through its marine capture industry (14 million tons). Nonetheless, even the growing fish farming industry is dependent on marine resources for its growth and survival.

A report released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 1999 indicates that coastal resources around the world have reached their maximum capacity to sustain exploitation ( FAO, 1999). Many coastal communities around the world who have traditionally been reliant on coastal resources find themselves caught between the increasing pressure from the land and the depletion of the ocean and coastal resources

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