Associate Professor Moenieba Isaacs joined PLAAS as a Research Associate and NUFU funded scholar in 1999, and earned her PhD from UWC in 2004 for her research on understanding the social processes and politics of fishery reform in coastal communities in South Africa. She was appointed to the position of Senior Lecturer in 2007, and has done extensive research on the politics of knowledge production and policymaking in small-scale fishery management, governance, coastal livelihoods and poverty with specific reference to the contestation of South African fishing policy.
Assoc Prof Isaacs contributes to developing a more balanced discourse on marine conservation, which incorporates not just the scientific aspects of fishing resource management, but also human and political economy dimensions of sustainable fishing. Limiting catch sizes addresses the problems of fish-breeding, allowing schools to recuperate, but this has a huge impact on the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. Also, Marine Protected Areas often exclude small-scale fishers from traditional fishing areas, where many generations have eked out their existence. When these impacts are not factored in, unsustainable or un-implementable policies often result. Even when such policies can be implemented, they can have significant unintended impacts on poverty and social problems.
Assoc Prof Isaacs has worked extensively with communities in South Africa to find policy solutions to the problem, which has highlighted the need to deal with social differentiation in fishing ‘communities’; unless an understanding of such complexities are part of research processes, they can perpetuate local conflicts. Engaged and reflective research must include finding creative and appropriate ways to engage with social processes, decision making and policymaking in the context of diverse civil society interests.