Governability Challenges Facing Small-Scale Fishers Living Adjacent to Marine Protected Areas in South Africa

  • Merle Sowman
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 13)


The governability of small-scale fisheries located adjacent to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in South Africa has increasingly come under scrutiny as communities, social science researchers, NGOs and human rights activists challenge current governance approaches that disregard the socio-cultural rights and livelihood needs of fishing communities living within or adjacent to MPAs. Drawing on research conducted in seven case studies in South Africa, this chapter explores the current mismatch between the realities facing fishing communities impacted by MPAs and the state-centric and natural science-based approach to governance adopted by South Africa’s fisheries management and conservation authorities. This approach to MPA governance persists despite a suite of policy reforms and political rhetoric that indicates the embrace of a more people-centred approach to natural resource governance. The key focus of this chapter is to gain a deeper understanding as to why this mismatch persists despite almost 20 years of democracy and policy reforms. While the devastating impact of South Africa’s political history is evident in all cases, other factors that inhibit meaningful change and formation of robust governance systems, are highlighted. These include the persistence of a natural-science paradigm; the divergent principles, values, worldviews and images amongst governance actors; institutional shortcomings; failure to recognize and respect local and customary forms of governance; and the lack of attention to implementation mechanisms that are informed by all governance actors.


Small-scale fisheries Marine protected areas Governability Poverty Fishing communities People-centred approach South Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Geographical ScienceUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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