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Social Dimensions of Fisheries and Ecosystem Management

Dried fishAn important part of PLAAS’s work has been on the persistence of poverty in fishing and coastal communities in Southern Africa. While the focus of much fishery and ecosystem management policy has involved a technicist emphasis  scientific evidence, our work looks at the impacts of limiting access on livelihoods of poor fisher folk who depend on fishing as a livelihood source (either for food or as a product to market).  This work has emphasised the importance of integrating social concerns and dimensions into fisheries management. Our research has explored how access rights and fishing permits can be extended to the poor, the most appropriate and successful methods for extending access rights, and the kinds of support structures required to make fishing a viable livelihood source for the poor — both those with ancestral claims and those who have previously been excluded and marginalised.

In addition to the specific focus on fishing, our work has over the years included community-based natural resource management and commons management more broadly.  Here, our work is highly relevant to the increasing international interest in ecosystem services for development and poverty reduction.  In future, we hope to contribute centrally to this growing area of work; particularly understanding the way in which political economy mediates and shapes socio-ecological processes and the uptake of ecosystem services by poor and marginalized people. 

Latest publications on Social Dimensions of Fisheries and Ecosystem Management
Key researchers in this field
  • Associate Prof Moenieba Isaacs (foci on smallscale fisheries in South Africa, individual transfer quotas, marine and coastal management)
  • Associate Prof Mafa Hara (foci on inland and marine fisheries management, access to inland fisheries, community-based resource management)
  • Dr Barbara Tapela (foci on community-based resource management, inland fisheries management and access rights)


If you are interested in getting involved in promoting small scale fishing, and social and environmental justice at sea and along our coastlines, visit Reclaim the Sea.