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Resilient coastal communities
© Mark Chipps

Our oceans and coastal ecosystems are facing unprecedented threats. This in turn has dire consequences for more than 200 vulnerable coastal fishing communities in South Africa that are dependent on the oceans as a source of food and for their livelihoods.

What is the issue?

Overfishing, combined with illegal fishing, is one of the major reasons that many fish populations have been reduced to unsafe levels. It also poses the biggest risk to the sustainable management of fisheries.

Climate change is already affecting weather and sea patterns, which in turn might reduce sea-going days for coastal fishers. It is also causing an increase in sea level, water temperature and acidification, while triggering deoxygenation in certain parts of our oceans. These changes are likely to adversely affect the distribution, abundance, migration and survival rates of many species.

Land and sea-based pollution, degradation of coastal habitats and ocean floor mining pose additional threats to the marine environment. These human impacts are making our weakened coastal and marine ecosystems even more vulnerable.

And the continued degradation of these ecosystems severely threatens the physical, economic and food security of coastal communities who are the most dependent on them.

What is WWF doing?

WWF is striving to build resilient coastal fishing communities through implementing coastal and marine ecosystem restoration pilot projects in partnership with various communities and organisations.

How do we do this?

WWF established an office in Kleinmond to work closely with local community fishers in Kleinmond, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay. Since 2013 we have been facilitating the implementation of a fishery improvement project (FIP) which includes supporting the development and implementation of mobile-based tools such as ABALOBI Fisher and ABALOBI Marketplace. These apps assist fishers to accurately record their catch, plus market and sell WWF-SASSI Green-listed species at better prices to local restaurants.

Another innovation is the use of an underwater camera known as BRUVs, or baited remote underwater video, to engage fishers in the collection of scientific data and provide an opportunity to participate in the co-management of marine resources. This also demonstrates the importance of marine protected areas (MPAs), such as the local Betty's Bay MPA, in building resilient ocean ecosystems.

Who do we work with?

Besides working with community fishers, we work with various government departments, conservation partners and research organisations. These include the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, CapeNature, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Shark Conservancy, ABALOBI and local municipalities.

How did it start?

In support of the government’s small-scale fisheries policy, which was approved in 2012, WWF strategically decided to work with coastal communities in order to facilitate the development of a small-scale FIP in key fisheries.

In June 2013, the work of the small-scale fisheries FIP started with a series of engagement meetings with stakeholders and local fishers in the Kogelberg region, which led to the implementation of BRUVs, ABALOBI apps and more.

What are the big wins?
  1. Between 2017 and 2018, WWF trained more than 1 025 community fishers from 38 coastal communities across the four coastal provinces – the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape as well as KwaZulu-Natal. The training included basic marine ecology and fishing regulations. It also allowed communities to better understand marine ecosystems and the reasons behind various conservation and management measures to encourage more sustainable fishing practices.

  2. Since the introduction of ABALOBI Fisher and Marketplace to the Kogelberg fishing community, 36 community fishers and three restaurants have signed up and are using the platforms. These fishers are now better equipped to accurately record their catches and many have been able to achieve more than a 300% increase in the market price for Green-listed Cape bream.

  3. Thus far, two community members were trained to assist with data capturing of the BRUVs footage, and 12 community members were trained to conduct BRUVs deployment.

  4. In 2019, new funding was secured to continue with community fisheries work in Kleinmond and to pilot supplementary livelihood projects specifically to improve food security. Excitingly, additional funding was also secured to expand this work to Hamburg in the Eastern Cape with a key objective of enhancing the resilience of coastal fishing communities to climate change.