An evaluation of the Marine Living Resources Act and supporting legal instruments as a framework for implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries in South Africa
The Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), which was enacted in 1998, is the primary legislation addressing South Africa’s marine fisheries. In June 2012, another important instrument, the Policy for the Small Scale Fisheries Sector (SSFP) in South Africa, was adopted to rectify the exclusion of many small-scale fishers from access to resources, that had resulted from weaknesses in the MLRA. This paper assesses the MLRA, aspects of the SSFP and selected other subsidiary policies and regulations in relation to current best-practices, especially the extent to which they support an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). The study concludes that there are some serious gaps and shortcomings in the MLRA that should be addressed. These include, among others, the need to: (i) revise the MLRA so as to incorporate requirements for open and transparent management and governance; (ii) entrench the principles of co-management, emphasised in the SSFP, for all fisheries; and (iii) include a legal requirement for detailed management plans for all fisheries. Despite these shortcomings, there has been considerable progress in implementation of EAF, at least in the country’s bigger fisheries. However, this should not be seen as a justification for avoiding or delaying a revision of the MLRA to bring it into line with modern best-practices as encompassed by EAF.
Keywords: FAO Code of Conduct, legislation, management, policy, responsible, sustainable