Sustainable Livelihoods and Marine Resources: How does South Africa's Policy for the Small-scale Fisheries Sector Consider Current Challenges on the Ground?

"There is a marked need to better understand the interconnectivity between poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability, since impoverished communities are often dependent upon their natural habitat to meet basic needs. Strategies to improve the livelihoods of the poor must consider the role of their natural environment. Although previous studies have recognised the challenges of integrating the dual goals of marine resource sustainability and poverty alleviation in coastal communities in South Africa, greater research is needed to assess the impacts of South African policies in achieving these objectives at a time when polices are being reviewed. The paper highlights this interconnectivity by assessing the challenges in South Africa to reduce poverty for coastal inhabitants, while simultaneously seeking sustainability of marine resources. Since 1994, when Apartheid ended in South Africa, the government has attempted to include previously disadvantaged black fishers into the fisheries sector as one possible avenue for poverty alleviation. However, existing environmental policies restrict such fishers’ access to marine resources. As a result, many impoverished black fishers throughout the country still lack access to a sufficient amount of marine resources to achieve sustainable livelihoods, and have been lobbying for almost a decade for access to commercial rights. In June 2012 the government introduced a policy aimed at fundamentally shifting the existing approach to the small-scale fisheries sector. In light of this objective, this study seeks to determine how the recently adopted Policy for the Small Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa has considered current challenges on the ground for small-scale fishers. The paper analyses how the new policy deals with difficulties facing small-scale fishers, while also considering wider implications for the country’s fisheries management strategies and for the promotion of sustainable coastal livelihoods. The fieldwork for this study was conducted in Hamburg, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province."