New perspectives in small-scale fisheries management: challenges and prospects for implementation in South Africa

  • M Sowman


Worldwide, the past 15–20 years has seen a significant shift in thinking and approaches to the management of small-scale fisheries. This is in response to the recognition that conventional fisheries management is not equipped to deal with the complexities, uncertainties and challenges prevalent in small-scale fishery systems. Consequently, a new fisheries paradigm is emerging based on the principles and ideas underpinning systems thinking, complexity theory, participatory democracy and adaptive management. Although fishery science is  required to inform management decisions, it must be seen as one of the inputs needed for effective governance. Incorporation of other disciplinary perspectives, knowledge sources and local information is considered necessary  for understanding the fishery system and identifying appropriate management  responses. Although South Africa has incorporated many of these ideas and principles into broad policies and legislation governing resource management, implementation of this new paradigm in the context of small-scale fisheries is proving difficult. However, recent developments such as the recognition of the socio-economic rights of this group of fishers, the formulation of a new draft small-scale fisheries policy, efforts to identify and address human dimensions in fisheries through research and stakeholder workshops, as well as opportunities  for greater participation in policy formulation and management, are all indicative of a shift in institutional culture and approach to this sector. This paper aims to provide an overview of the main ideas underpinning the new small-scale fisheries paradigm and explores the application of these ideas in the context of small-scale fisheries in South Africa. Challenges and prospects for implementing this new management paradigm are discussed, as well as some practical ideas for progressing this new approach.

Keywords: complex, governance, inter-disciplinary, policy, socio-ecological systems, traditional fishers

African Journal of Marine Science 2011, 33(2): 297–311

Author Biography

M Sowman
Environmental Evaluation Unit, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X