Original Articles

Contributions of the Benguela ecology programme to pelagic fisheries management in South Africa


In 1982, the Benguela Ecology Programme (BEP) created a formal, multi-institutional research partnership in South Africa. During the next two decades, the BEP directed many aspects of pelagic ecosystem research in the southern Benguela upwelling region, aiming to improve fisheries management, particularly that of anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus. Although much reduced in scale, the BEP is now in its fifth phase. Its early critics believed that much of the money invested in its ecosystem-type research had not benefited fisheries management, whereas its supporters maintain that many aspects of current pelagic fisheries management are founded on the BEP legacy. Ecosystem research underpinned the design of hydroacoustic surveys, and resulted in the development of expert system models aimed at predicting recruitment strength of anchovy. Current efforts to develop an ecosystem approach to management of the pelagic fishery in South Africa draw on the knowledge and understanding generated by more than 20 years of ecosystem research. However, despite this strong foundation, there is still uncertainty about the causes of interannual variability in pelagic fish recruitment. It is suggested that this time span is too short, and ecosystem monitoring and research should persist for decades to reap their full rewards. The BEP enabled productive partnerships to be established between academic and State researchers and fisheries managers, and improved linkages and communication to the fishing industry.

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