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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?

In 2013, WWF established an office in Kleinmond in the Kogelberg region of the Western Cape to pilot fishery improvement projects (FIPs) with local community fishers from Kleinmond, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay. In 2019, the work was extended to the Eastern Cape to engage with fishers in Hamburg near Port Alfred. A WWF office was opened in Hamburg in 2020.

The implementation of FIPs 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 fisher-enabling project involves 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.

We also facilitate activities to diversify livelihoods and address poverty and food insecurity by building climate resilience among the coastal communities and small-scale fishers in both Kogelberg and Hamburg.

Who do we work with?

Besides working with community fishers and local cooperatives, we work with various government departments, conservation partners and research organisations. These include the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, CapeNature, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Shark Conservancy, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, 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. In 2019, WWF recruited and trained 15 local community members into a full-time learnership to work as Marine and Coastal Community Monitors to formally observe and collect data along the coast in Kogelberg. Through the learnership, they all also received guidance, resources and financial support to either complete their Matric or to upgrade their Matric results to qualify to study for a Higher Certificate in Criminal Justice at Nelson Mandela University. Of the group, 11 qualified and they first completed a Criminal Law Enforcement Programme course in 2021. In 2022 they are studying towards the Higher Certificate in Criminal Justice. 

2. In 2020, five community members from Kogelberg received training through Contour Training Academy to become qualified eco-tourism guides. All five passed the course and received certificates of competency from one of South Africa’s sector education and training authorities, CATHSSETA. WWF assisted them to register their cooperation (Sisonke Enviro Tours) to conduct nature-based tours and other tourism-related activities in the area to promote the uniqueness of the Kogelberg whilst earning an income.

3. Thus far, 14 community members were trained to assist with data capturing of the BRUVs footage, and 15 were trained to conduct BRUVs deployment. They also contributed towards the landmark publication of two scientific papers about the status and diversity of smaller endemic shark species in South African waters. With researchers from the South African Shark Conservancy as the authors of the papers, this was the first time that community members were involved in such research.

4. In Hamburg, two community monitors have been employed on a renewable contract bases and trained to collect fisheries data using ABALOBI Monitor – a community-based app for monitoring and reporting fish catches.