South Africa's Fishing Policy and Its Coastal Communities Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

South African Fisheries and the Approaches Needed to Solve Them.

The purpose of this paper is to show a current South African issue about policy problems and the official or department that does something about it. This work then produces the necessary research - a memo about policy - to that official about the problems present and the efforts required to resolve them.

The start of the democratic process in South Africa in the year 1994 sparked a law reformation process that aimed to resolve problems in the past and provide a platform to disadvantaged communities. This process was led by the South African Constitution (1996) which was supported by a number of human rights ideals present in the Bill of Rights (Witbooi, 2006). The undermining of fishermen on the South African coastline was due to their organized exclusion from the marine communities following many years of industrialization, racism and the growing privatization of marine assets by the use of policy instruments like quotas. The ANC government was tasked with the problem of changing an industry which was primarily controlled by a few numbers of white-owned firms. This action happened in a complicated policy surrounding that also included regulating South Africa's integration into the world economy and taking on neo-liberal policies of economics as well as the social policies of the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP).

People of the low-income fishing homes had held great hopes for the new government that it would fulfill its earlier declarations of increasing the standard of the penniless communities on the coast by helping them with the path to marine assets (African National Congress, 1994). Moreover, a position document created by the ANC says that "For the sake of all South Africans and especially those whose lives depend on the sea, marine resources must be handled carefully… The government should also help the people who use these assets" (African National Congress, 1994). So people expected the fishing assets to help in reducing poverty and create employment as well as giving more rights and resources to the low income fishing areas.

Although there being a liberal constitution that focuses on protecting and respecting a series of social, economic and environmental rights and recognizing "living customary law" (African National Congress, 1994), the conventional small-scale fishing sector in the country of South Africa is still undermined. The use of assets, access to them and the bodies for the management of fisheries remain centrally controlled and commercial businesses are favored due to a doctrine that focuses on the market (Sunde et al., 2003). Reforms in various policies from 1998 to 2006 improved the procedure of accessing marine assets for blacks and that handful of advantaged members who had been left out in the past by shareholder places and combined enterprise. Even then, these changes were thought to be just superficial and to make an impression only but not aimed to actually giving back the fishing rights to the coastal people in South Africa or help them with any of their social or economic requirements (Nielsen and Hara, 2006). Particularly, communities belonging in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were excluded very much because they were geographically remote and depended mostly on subsistence fishing.

Current Situation

An argument which has been quoted many times in traditional fisheries writings is marine resources will be destroyed if access is left completely open to all (Hardin, 1968). The idea behind this notion is that if limits and entry barriers are not set, it will lead to the exploitation of the assets, reduce the variation in them, destroy their ecosystem and completely finish the amount of resources present. Some other arguments include the fact that low income and undermined societies will consume the resources to the point that it would be difficult to recover them because of the difficult situations they would be in which would in turn lead to the further ruin of their living standards and diminish the resources (Pauly, 1997; Cunningham et al., 2009). If adopting this viewpoint, an approach which is focused on rights and produces barriers to optimize economical returns, is believed to be workable and sustainable (Garcia, 2005). This way has been used through a series of management systems which were all based upon the ideas of an efficient economy which contains rights for the private user as a main way for the policy to run.

Recently though, this approach has been criticized for not correcting the main policy issues like how to make sure that the revenue generated from fishery rents gives way to the growth of the economy and the welfare system (Olson, 2012). Those who favor this wealth-focused approach however argue that a crucial role of the fisheries is to catch the oceanic and marine wealth and convert it into a catalyst to transform and accelerate economic progress and end poverty by multiplying the wealth generated and redistributing it to different sectors (World Bank/FAO, 2009).

The wealth-focused approach to run fisheries is based on the idea of 'rent'. If we take it into accord, it says that the existing rights-focused approach is only an incomplete solution to the collapse of wealth in the fishing industry. The authors say that the rights have to be specified without any confusion and have to be backed by the particular institutions including legal and fiscal and others that give protection to the operation. A wealth focused approach needs a framework that focuses all areas of the management of fisheries to increasing the wealth provided by rent - it contains "the legal system; the economic measures; the management systems (including the hierarchy and nature of these management departments); the way of the organizational machinery and tools; identifiers; support of research; the management of communicational ideas and the workings in the research and the management sector; the layout of marine information machinery and so on" (Cunningham et al., 2009).

This wealth focused approach to administration is being furthered in Africa with the efforts of the World Bank and the regional fishing governing partners, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Union. Advocates of the system say that it will increase the growth of the economy and give benefits to the society by creating unemployment, helping with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adding value and developing the living standards of the low income people. They also endorse it by arguing that it promotes the contributions of those small fisheries in decreasing poverty and by making the process of the value chain more efficient. This proposition would also serve as a catalyst for the formation of small and mid-scale businesses, in reality though these opportunities are fulfilled by the local advantaged and elite population and in the open market; it necessitates competition vs. The larger businesses. This does not usually help the lower income strata of the communities (Bene et al., 2010; Isaacs, 2011).


Both the approaches focused on rights and wealth are targeted on the market and are used by most of the fishing industry North. South Africa however has taken on the system based on rights since 1994, keeping itself aligned with the policies of a macro economical neoliberal ideas (Crosoer et al., 2006; Sittert et al., 2006), and in collaboration with the NEPAD and the AU is focusing more on the wealth focused approach. But even with their fame and widespread usability, the market-targeted idea of the rights and wealth focused approaches has been criticized by fishermen, NGOs, resource organizers and also development agencies.

They discuss that marginal benefits are given to poor income communities and are skeptical of the proposal that poverty equals resource overexploitation. They put forward the idea that the industries, and those which use non-environmental friendly tools as well as ignoring the small scale enterprises will contribute equally to the over-consumption and exploitation of the marine assets present in the world (ICSF, 2009 and 2012). Other than that, they say that while the diminishing returns exacerbate poverty, there are other reasons as well including low level infrastructure, inadequate health and educational facilities, diminishing opportunities to make decisions and reduced political organization is contributing even more to increasing poverty in the fishing societies. They propose an approach based on human rights to administer the fisheries, putting forward the idea that creating fisheries that are able to sustain themselves is equal to achieving human rights (Sharma, 2011). Taking this argument into account, it says that the link between small fisheries and low income proliferation exists very much - the rights of these small fishermen have to be fulfilled if you want to maximize their contribution. If this approach is taken up, "the links between people and collectives with claims and the state plus non-state actors who have a duty are identified by human rights. It recognizes those who have rights and their deserved assets as well as those have obligations and it helps towards maximizing their potential so that the entitled people can claim their rights and the people with obligations can…

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