Scientists empower fishing communities

12 August 2002
By Erina Botha

UCT'S Environmental Evaluation Unit (EEU) is engaged in coordinating a national coastal and fisheries co-management training and capacity building programme for the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) division of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT).

This project, funded by the Norwegian government, is being undertaken in partnership with the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies at the UWC, as well as other partners in all the coastal provinces. It aims to enhance capacity of coastal resource users, with special focus on subsistence fishers, to become more actively engaged in the day to day management of resources upon which they depend.

According to the EEU's director Dr Merle Sowman, several training courses are currently being held in coastal communities throughout SA.

"We have prepared materials covering topics such as legislation relevant to subsistence fishers, conflict management and steps to establish co-management systems.

"They are available in four local languages to make them user-friendly to these communities."

The first capacity-building programme of this kind was initiated by the EEU, in collaboration with the Peninsula Technikon in 1993, says Sowman.

"Support was provided to the fisher community at Ebenhaeser on the West Coast to address practical difficulties in managing marine resources. Members of the community were trained to monitor and record fish catches.

"The information supplied by this community-based monitoring programme now complements the scientific data used by government scientists to determine the fishing effort for the subsequent seasons."

The EEU was also a key partner in a recent collaborative research project which sought to improve understanding of sustainable livelihoods in coastal areas. This research provided the basis for government to allocate funding to enhance the livelihoods of poor coastal communities.

Co-management as an alternative model of management for coastal and small-scale commercial and subsistence fisheries resources, is a key research focus at the EEU. A recent collaborative project with UCT's Institute of Criminology examined 10 case studies relevant to coastal or fisheries co-management.

The research aimed to assess under what conditions co-management is likely to succeed in South Africa, given the changing policy and legislative environment. This research has culminated in the publication of a book entitled Waves of Change: Coastal and Fisheries Co-management in South Africa (Hauck and Sowman (eds), in press).

The EEU is also heavily involved in projects and programmes in the field of integrated coastal management (ICM) and fisheries co-management. It has been actively engaged in various aspects of the SA coastal policy formulation process and prepared a specialist study on the "Legal and institutional arrangements for coastal management in South Africa" in collaboration with Prof Jan Glazewski from the Institute for Marine and Environmental Law at UCT.

According to Prof Glazewski this study provided the basis for a draft National Coastal Management Bill which is currently being prepared by DEAT, and which, if enacted, will replace the outmoded Sea Shore Act of 1935.

The EEU also offers a three-day training course on ICM to mid-career professionals.

These courses cover topics ranging from coastal processes, economic value of the coast, policy developments and conceptual underpinnings of ICM, as well as tools for ICM.

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