CJN Presentation at MPA Forum, 2 December 2021

This presentation was delivered by Taryn Pereira and Buhle Francis, in isiXhosa and in English.

Good Morning, Molweni Nonke, Goeie More Almal!
We are from the Coastal Justice Network, we work from the university called Rhodes, in Makhanda, eRhini.
We are part of a network of SSF leaders, civil society organisations and researchers interested in social and ecological justice in marine decision making. We are in solidarity with the small scale fishers present here at this MPA forum, and those joining us online – notably, the Langebaan fishers joining us from the SanParks offices in Langebaan (who would appreciate some Afrikaans translation of what is being spoken about here).
We are grateful to be included in this important initiative – it is useful to come together to reflect and move towards shared visions for marine protection in South Africa.
What we are saying here today is based on what we have learnt through years of conversation and dialogue with small scale fisher leaders and others in civil society, as well as through our own active engagement with marine decision making.

We have three main points to make:

  1. We currently have no co-management in any MPAs in South Africa. This is inexcusable.
    If you have been listening to the different speakers and members of the audience here, you would have been struck by the extreme divergence of views in terms of what is happening in our Marine Protected Areas. You may also be under the impression that MPAs as we know them are the only option for protecting our marine environment. This is simply not true. True co-management is being successfully implemented in other countries. For example, the Kawawane ICCA in Senegal, and the community fishery closures, or ‘tengefu’, in Kenya.
    What is holding us back in South Africa? Genuine community involvement is much better for biodiversity conservation than our current approaches. Research shows that locally managed marine protection is highly effective.
    We do not have empirical evidence in South Africa of the effectiveness of properly co-managed marine protection, as no such examples yet exist. We cannot say that MPAs as we know them are our most effective tool, because we have nothing to compare them to!
  2. What do we really mean by co-management?
    Co-management is defined in the SSF policy as a governance approach where government and community share the responsibility and authority for management of resources. Co-management committees must be established. Co-management
    agreements provide for access to and use of marine living resources in SSF communities and protected areas. Current experiences of SSF and other community organisations living adjacent to MPAs are very far from this.
    Let us be really honest and thoughtful about what is needed for real participation. It is not just about whether a meeting happens or not. It is not about the names on your attendance register. It is as important to pay attention to the way a meeting is organized, as to whether a meeting happens or not. Meeting logistics, travel arrangements, timing, language, who sets the agenda, the way the seats are arranged, who facilitates the meeting – all of these things matter enormously.
    True and meaningful participation in decision making takes time, requires commitment and capacities beyond what currently exists. But it is legally required, it is morally the right thing to do, and it is the best thing for the future of marine conservation.
  3. The good news is, we have so much in place already
    People along our coastline are mobilised and organised – the only reason we have such a progressive SSF policy is because of decades of work by SSF organisations and their partners.
    SSF already do so much to protect the ocean. SSF are the most obvious and rightful partners for government in carrying out ocean protection. As we speak, an extremely serious threat to our marine environment, the seismic surveys undertaken by Shell and other companies along the Eastern Cape coast, are about to commence in the ocean very near to where we sit today. SSF leaders from Dwesa-Cwebe, Port St. Johns and Kei Mouth are working closely with lawyers to try and make sure that large companies are not just left to destroy our environment. These same fishers, engaged in urgent marine protection work, are excluded and marginalized by the Marine Protected Areas in their customary waters.
    We have co-management principles enshrined in our national and international laws. We have active civil society with a lot of experience and capacity to support true and meaningful participation. We have had some moments of seeing what a more participatory approach might look like. Through working with fisher organisations and other community leaders, and with some officials at ECPTA and Ezemvelo, we have been slowly expanding spaces for participatory decision making in Amathole and Aliwal Shoal MPAs. This is just the beginning – let us build on this, together!
    We now want to invite some of the SSF leaders present to speak about the work they do in ocean protection.
    * END*