African Journal of Marine Science

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Assessment of resource availability and sustainability for subsistence fishers in South Africa, with a review of resource management procedures

AC Cockcroft, WHH Sauer, GM Branch, BM Clark, AH Dye, E Russell


The availability of resources and their suitability for subsistence and small-scale commercial fishers in South Africa were assessed and appropriate options for the management of resources recommended. Assessment of current resource utilization and recommendations for future subsistence and/or small-scale commercial use were based on information gathered during a nationwide survey of 144 subsistence fishing communities in South Africa and a review of relevant published and unpublished literature. Current patterns of resource use in three regions of the coast (West, South and East coasts) revealed that most true subsistence fisheries occur in the eastern half of the country. These fisheries are primarily focused on invertebrate species found on intertidal rocky shores and sandy beaches, or in estuaries. Fish are harvested by rod or handline, netting or traditional fishing methods (fishtraps, spearing, baited baskets). No “new” or previously underutilized resources were identified as suitable for subsistence fishing in any of the three regions. The potential for several new small-scale commercial fisheries was identified, but the need to retain certain resources for subsistence fisheries (rather than converting them to small-scale commercial fisheries) was evident in certain areas. Resources with high commercial value were not considered suitable for subsistence fishing, but rather for the introduction of small-scale commercial fisheries. The overall management strategy for the subsistence sector, which is currently in the process of being developed, must ensure sufficient flexibility to be able to take into account regional and site-specific requirements. It will also need to develop co-management structures, protect traditional fishing practices, avoid user conflict and provide for no-take areas, all within the framework of sustainable resource utilization.

Keywords: estuarine resources, fisheries management, intertidal resources, subsistence fisheries, subtidal resources

African Journal of Marine Science 2002, 24: 489–501

AJOL African Journals Online