Original Articles

Perceptions of subsistence and informal fishers in South Africa regarding the management of living marine resources


Following the legal recognition of subsistence fishers in 1998 through the promulgation of the Marine Living Resources Act, a Subsistence Fisheries Task Group (SFTG) was appointed by national government to provide recommendations on the management of subsistence fishing in South Africa. To achieve effective management, the SFTG recognized that fishers' needs, perceptions and concerns must be understood and incorporated into future management strategies. As a result, information from fishers was gathered through a five-month research programme that included questionnaire surveys, focus-group meetings, a "roadshow" and a national workshop. Research findings indicated that the fishers' responses centred on four key themes related to (1) the criteria for defining a subsistence fisher, (2) current management practices, (3) resource use and (4) livelihood strategies. Feedback from fishers revealed several issues that have led to uncertainty and dissatisfaction among informal and subsistence fishers. However, these perceptions need to be contextualized within the historical circumstances of fisheries management in South Africa, and it must be recognized that attitudes will only change when management approaches embrace the needs, perceptions and concerns of the users. The information outlined in this paper was instrumental in guiding the formulation of the SFTG recommendations regarding the definition of subsistence fishers and their future management in South Africa.

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