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RFA calls for a more prominent inclusion of EAF approach in the MLRA

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The marine fishery sector is important for the growth and development of South Africa. Not only does it provide an important source of food, it also creates tens of thousands of jobs for people residing in coastal areas. Although the sector provides less than 1% of the national GDP, it remains extremely important for coastal regions and communities who depend on fisheries for their livelihoods. Fisheries in South Africa range from small-scale subsistence to large-scale commercial, with small-scale fishers accounting for the majority of people dependent on marine fish.
South Africa has signed on to implement an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF). This approach aims to include ecosystem considerations into the management of all scales of fisheries. It intends to take into account the biological, social and economic value of the broader ecosystem as opposed to the traditional single-species focus, and thereby implement an integrated approach to fisheries management.
The Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) was passed in 1998. It provides for conservation of the marine environment, as well as sustainable use of marine living resources. One of the weaknesses of the MLRA was the lack of recognition of small-scale subsistence fishers. This led to the adoption of the Policy for the Small Scale Fisheries Sector (SSFP) in 2012. It recognised the rights of artisanal fishers – i.e. fishers who mainly fished for subsistence but sold extra catch in their communities. The SSFP was converted into formal legislation with the passing of the Marine Living Resources Amendment Act in May 2014.
In 2014, Rhodes University with the support of the RFA, undertook a review of the MLRA, and other relevant policies related to fisheries management (such as the Small Scale Fishery Policy), to assess if there is adequate legal support for the implementation of an EAF. This analysis was undertaken from two perspectives: a legal perspective and a scientific perspective. The MLRA was analysed against a set of criteria informed by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, with inputs from fishery stakeholders.
Project Executive, Dr Kevern Cochrane, reflected on the findings of the review: “Both perspectives found that regulation of effort (number of crew members, size of vessel, etc.) and catch (amount of fish) was well addressed in the MLRA, as well as licensing and consideration of small-scale fishers following the recent amendments to the Act. However, a big gap in the MLRA is the issue of transparency and openness in governance and decision making – a globally recognised principle of good governance which is not addressed in the Act”. Furthermore Kevern adds that: “Another gap identified in the MLRA is the absence of the requirement to use best scientific evidence, backed by stakeholder knowledge, for decision-making. Both perspectives also recognised the lack of a mandatory provision for the drafting of management plans. This leads to gaps and inconsistencies in practice.”
The report also calls for the introduction of specific Fishery Management Manuals, a plan for the successful implementation of the SSFP and an advisory forum of key stakeholders to guide decision-making at higher levels.

The report ultimately found that South Africa has been moderately successful in implementing EAF, but that the MLRA needs to be revisited to address many of the weaknesses and gaps identified. International and inter-sectoral coordination and cooperation should be a guiding principle of the MLRA. The amendments already made to the MLRA in 2014 are a start and should be built on following the release of the report. Revision of the MLRA will require suitably qualified social scientists, economists, fisheries lawyers and trained managers, and is essential to address the reported shortcomings in all fishery sectors.
The Responsible Fisheries Alliance will now be looking to engage with DAFF to take forward the recommendations put forward by this study.

For further reading:
Cochrane, K.L., Joyner, J., Sauer, W. and Swan, J. (2015) Informing effective policies for responsible marine fisheries in South Africa. A report prepared for WWF: South Africa and the Responsible Fisheries Alliance. Draft Final Report (attached below)
FAO (1995) FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
The Marine Living Resources Amendment Act (No. 5 of 2014)
Policy for the Small Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa (2012)



  1. Cochrane et al (2015) Final Report-Informing effective policies for marine fisheries (741.9 KiB)
    MLRA Review Project Report