For the past seven weeks, The Hook has been publishing articles focusing on key Small-Scale Fisheries objectives. This week, we will focus on the last objective of the policy. Let us take a look at the policy objective that aims to: Ensure participation of small-scale fishing communities in Planning and implementation of MPAs by the state agencies such SANParks and Ezemvelo.

“… States should involve small-scale fishing communities – with special attention to equitable participation of women, vulnerable and marginalised groups – in the design, planning and, as appropriate, implementation of management measures, including protected areas, affecting their livelihood options….”( Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries, 2013).

Small-scale fishers have constantly complained about their exclusion in the planning and implementing of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Implementing agencies have been accused of disregarding fisher customary rights and knowledge by making decisions that threaten the livelihoods of many fishing communities.

Fisheries management in South Africa adopted an ecosystem management approach to fisheries, and declared 20% of the coast as MPAs. Formal provisions in the Marine Living Resources Act 18 of 1998 (MLRA) created more opportunities for the elite to access fishing rights than opportunities for the poor. So bona fide fishers were left out of formal allocation processes and as traditional fishers were unable to access formal fishing rights, many resorted to poaching in MPAs (PLAAS, 2010).

Well known cases of these include the Langebaan and the Dwesa-Cwebe MPAs. The fishing communities affected by these MPA’s are met with difficulties of accessing marine, land and other natural resources.

In an MPA forum held early this year, fishers from the four coastal provinces of South Africa expressed their thoughts on MPA management.

They said that “many fishers experience little benefit from MPAs and they face exclusion by management and abuse from rangers. However, as they shared their concerns, they also explained that while they do not discredit the benefits of MPAs there needs to be a different relationship between conservation agencies and MPAs.

Indigenous knowledge, community participation and fishers rights must be strongly factored into the planning processes and management of MPA’s “(Masifundise 2015).

When the SSF policy alludes to the participation of SSF communities in the planning and management of MPAs, it aims to ensure that this community is not left out from decisions that directly impacts on its livelihoods.

It means that when the state is planning to declare an area a MPA, communities must be consulted from the onset and no decision must be taken without the proper consultation of the community that will be affected.

Furthermore, because fisher communities possess indigenous knowledge of the area and its marine resources, this knowledge must be factored into every decision taken by the state.

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