, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 214–226 | Cite as

Rehabilitating mussel beds in Coffee Bay, South Africa: Towards fostering cooperative small-scale fisheries governance and enabling community upliftment

  • Gurutze Calvo-UgarteburuEmail author
  • Serge RaemaekersEmail author
  • Christina Halling


Along the coast of South Africa, marine resources play a significant role in supporting livelihoods and contributing to food security in impoverished rural communities. Post-apartheid fisheries laws and policies have begun to address traditional fishing rights and development needs, and new management arrangements are being implemented. One such initiative has been the Mussel Rehabilitation Project in Coffee Bay, which piloted a resource rehabilitation technique at several over-exploited fishing sites. Mussel stocks in these exploited areas had dropped to under 1 % mussel cover, and during the project period, stocks increased to >80 % cover, supporting a sustainable harvest well above national daily bag limits. This stock enhancement was achieved only after the project had started to address social challenges such as the lack of local management institutions and the need to enhance food security. The project embarked on training and institution-building; it formed a robust community mussel management committee; and developed a local resource management plan, facilitating increased community participation in the day-to-day management of the resource. The project also saw the initiation of various ancillary projects aimed at improving food security and stimulating the local economy and hence alleviating pressure on the marine resources. Here we review this 10-year project’s outcomes, and present lessons for small-scale fisheries governance in South Africa and internationally. We show, through empirical experience, that balancing stock rebuilding needs in a context of widespread poverty and dependency on natural resources by a local fisher community can only be addressed through an integrated approach to development. Participation of resource users and a thorough understanding of the local context are imperative to negotiating appropriate small-scale fisheries governance approaches. We recommend that the implementation of South Africa’s newly minted Small-Scale Fisheries Policy should begin with bottom-up, demonstrative resource management measures such as mussel rehabilitation. This type of initiative can deliver short-term food security benefits and foster social learning towards sustainable and cooperative fisheries governance.


Community upliftment Fisheries governance Mussel rehabilitation Perna perna Small-scale fisheries 



The authors would like to acknowledge support from the Swedish Research Council, the National Research Foundation, the International Foundation for Science, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the SIDA and WWF South Africa.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyWalter Sisulu UniversityMthathaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Environmental and Geographical SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant SciencesStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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