How To Get Fishers More Involved In Decisions That Affect Them

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Marginalised and small-scale fishers must be given capacity and the space to engage and influence policy. Shutterstock

By Louise C. Gammage

South Africa’s approach to managing its fishing industry is supposed to include all interested parties. Fishers and government should work together to make decisions. But this has proven to be easier said than done.

The country adopted the ecosystem approach to fisheries management at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. This approach aims to keep the marine ecosystem healthy while allowing people to make a sustainable living from it. Later, the country adopted a small-scale fisheries policy that follows the same bottom-up management principles.

Putting it into practice requires systems thinking – looking at how the parts of a system relate to each other and how the system functions over time. This is where South Africa has fallen short of its policy goals. The government’s fisheries management still works from the top down, leaving very little room for anyone else, such as small-scale fishers, to contribute. And it doesn’t build their capacity to get involved in governing fisheries.

If the government is to implement the ecosystem approach, it has to create space for participation – from making policy and decisions to managing activities.

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