Untangling a Gordian Knot that must not be cut: Social-ecological systems research for management of Southern Benguela fisheries

The historical approach of sector-specific, largely top-down management in favor of highly capitalized industry sectors has seemingly left southern Benguela fisheries management in a Gordian knot. The modern systems approach to management of human activities in the oceans forbids cutting through the knot, making it necessary to develop methodology for including a wide range of stakeholders and trading off multiple, conflicting objectives under high uncertainty. Recent research in an interdisciplinary group including researchers and students from the humanities, social and natural sciences has focused on soft predictability and structured decision making in social-ecological marine systems under global change. Using three management case studies from the southern Benguela, i.e. purse-seine fisheries, conservation of the Endangered African penguin and the commercial handline fishery system in the southern Cape, we review how modelling system dynamics with stakeholders, semi-quantitative methodology for the integration of a wide variety of indicators, social learning, communication around shared issues and dedicated trust building have supported softening of boundaries between stereotyped stakeholders, and are contributing to a shared knowledge base as well as to an extended toolkit for management. We highlight promising loops of the knot with a view of generating discussion on how these can be tackled strategically.

The impact of coastal grabbing on community conservation – a global reconnaissance.

“Coastal grab” refers to the contested appropriation of coastal (shore and inshore) space and resources by outside interests. This paper explores the phenomenon of coastal grabbing and the effects of such appropriation on community-based conservation of local resources and environment. The approach combines social-ecological systems analysis with socio-legal property rights studies. Evidence of coastal grab is provided from four country settings (Canada, Brazil, India and South Africa), distinguishing the identity of the ‘grabbers’ (industry, government) and ‘victims’, the scale and intensity of the process, and the resultant ‘booty’. The paper also considers the responses of the communities. While emphasizing the scale of coastal grab and its deleterious consequences for local communities and their conservation efforts, the paper also recognizes the strength of community responses, and the alliances/partnerships with academia and civil society, which assist in countering some of the negative effects.