African Journal of Marine Science

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Shallow waters: social science research in South Africa’s marine environment

M Sowman, D Scott, LJF Green, MM Hara, M Hauck, K Kirsten, B Paterson, S Raemaekers, K Jones, J Sunde, JK Turpie


This paper provides an overview of social science research in the marine environment of South Africa for the period 1994–2012. A bibliography based on a review of relevant literature and social science projects funded under the SEAChange programme of the South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research (SANCOR) was used to identify nine main themes that capture the knowledge generated in the marine social science field. Within these themes, a wide diversity of topics has been explored, covering a wide geographic area. The review suggests that there has been a steady increase in social science research activities and outputs over the past 18 years, with a marked increase in postgraduate dissertations in this field. The SEAChange programme has contributed to enhancing understanding of certain issues and social interactions in the marine environment but this work is limited. Furthermore, there has been limited dissemination of these research results amongst the broader marine science community and incorporation of this information into policy and management decisions has also been limited. However, marine scientists are increasingly recognising the importance of taking a more holistic and integrated approach to management, and are encouraging further social science research, as well as interdisciplinary research across the natural and social sciences. Possible reasons for the lack of communication and coordination amongst natural and social scientists, as well as the limited uptake of research results in policy and management decisions, are discussed and recommendations are proposed.

Keywords: coastal development, economics, governance, human dimensions, society

African Journal of Marine Science 2013, 35(3): 385–402

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