Past, present and future perspectives
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Figure 2c.5: Trends in marine fish catch for Southern Africa, 1972-97



Most of Southern Africa's coastal and marine resources are under pressure from unsustainable rates and methods of harvesting, resulting from increasing demand on marine resources for food (driven by population increase, rising demand by wealthy consumers, export markets, and tourists). Demand comes not only from the maritime countries but also from inland nations. FAO trends for marine harvest, indicate a decline in marine stocks since 1972 for most countries in the sub-region (FAOSTAT 2001). This is illustrated by Figure 2c.5.

Mangrove forests are also subjected to unsustainable harvesting pressures and are being cleared for agricultural uses, salt production and human settlements. The rate of deforestation in Mozambique has been over 3 per cent per year in the last 18 years (Saket and Matusse 1994). Lack of monitoring and research as well as inadequate policy enforcement also contribute to overharvesting of mangrove resources by both domestic and commercial users. The slow regeneration rates of mangrove trees and mining of coastal sands are exacerbating the rate of loss of mangrove habitats and are accelerating erosion rates in the coastal zone. Loss of mangrove habitat also impacts on productivity of artisanal and commercial shrimp and crab fisheries. Elevated sediment loads in coastal waters (due to erosion in the coastal zone and upstream) can increase turbidity and cause siltation of estuaries. In the open ocean, sediments can be deposited, smothering fragile habitats such as coral reefs, and benthic habitats in sheltered bays. This not only has impacts on the ecosystems but may also affect the potential revenues from tourism.

Sustainable harvesting of coastal and marine resources in Southern Africa

Reduced catches and a decrease in the mean sizes of fish caught have led to calls for the protection of line fish stocks by many governments in the sub-region, although controls have not always been easy to monitor and enforce. Fisheries management measures include minimum size limits, bag limits, closed seasons, and closed areas (marine reserves). For example, under the Marine Living Resources Act of South Africa (1998), all South African fish stocks must be used on a sustainable basis and overexploited populations must be allowed to recover to sustainable levels before harvesting is resumed. In December 2000, drastically reduced stocks of line fish prompted South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism to declare a State of Emergency, suspending the activities of commercial, artisanal and recreational anglers until stocks regenerate (DEA&T 2000a).

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Shrimp and prawn seafood fisheries are important for the local and national economies.


Public awareness, policy directives and technological development are essential for ecosystem management and some countries have made progress in this regard. Other proposals for the management of coastal and marine resources include formulation of marine resource management plans, community-based management of mangroves and fishery resources, and institutional capacity building (Sousa 1998).

MPAs have been established in Southern Africa to limit harvesting of coastal and marine resources. There are 44 MPAs along the sub-region's coast, mostly under the jurisdiction of central or provincial governments (WCMC 1999). Where MPAs have been formally established and regulated, as in some parts of South Africa, inshore fisheries have successfully recovered (Msiska, Jiddaw & Sumaila 2000). In other areas, however, lack of education and of enforcement of regulations has hindered the success of MPAs in regulating extraction rates of some species. For example, more than 17 tonnes of Abalone (a species covered by Appendix III of the CITES) were confiscated from poachers along the coast of Cape Town during December 2001 and January 2002 (Craig Haskins, City of Cape Town, personal communication).

By contrast, informal protection has been successful in other areas. In Namibia, for instance, fishing within 200 m of the coast is illegal although there is no formal protection, and fisheries resources within this zone have been successfully protected (Msiska and others 2000). In some countries, partnerships are being formed to protect marine and coastal resources, as governments recognize the need to balance subsistence and small-scale activities with commercial demand and export revenues. This can be expected to substantially improve not only the management of resources but also relations between fishermen and authorities because subsistence fishermen will come to regard themselves as stakeholders and managers of common resources and not simply as acting under instruction from the government.