The history of South African inland fisheries policy with governance recommendations for the democratic era


  • Peter Britz Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Prince Alfred Street, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa



inland fisheries, fisheries policy, fisheries governance, recreational fisheries, small-scale fisheries


The governance of South Africa’s inland fishery resources in the democratic era has lacked a guiding policy, supporting legislation and government capacity based on the social, economic and environmental objectives defined in constitutional legislation. This is ironic, as during the colonial and apartheid eras South Africa had developmentally orientated inland fishery policies with supporting institutions. An overview of the evolution of inland fishery policy in South Africa is provided, beginning with the comprehensive colonial policies to develop Inland Fisheries Divisions and recreational

fisheries based on the introduction of alien species. Apartheid-era policies to promote commercial fisheries on dams in the Free State and small-scale fisheries in the former homelands are described. A policy shift in the 1980s saw the provincial nature conservation agencies move away from promoting inland fisheries based on alien species to conserving indigenous fish fauna. This effectively ended a century of state-supported inland fishery development, resulting in a decline in state-supported inland fishery institutions and a policy vacuum which has not been addressed in the democratic era. Customary and traditional small-scale fishing rights and practices have never been recognised in policy and governance arrangements resulting in the progressive marginalisation of these fisheries. The inclusion of the inland fishery mandate into the Fisheries Branch of the newly-formed Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2009 was a positive move opening the way for the re-establishment of institutional arrangements to promote equity and optimal socio-economic benefit from inland fisheries. The need for an inland fishery policy and institutional capacity aligned with democratic South Africa’s development objectives and environmental management policies is motivated. Policy objectives are recommended based on a characterisation of the potential of the inland fishery resource and its user groups, international norms for fishery governance, and consultations with public and private sector stakeholders on appropriate governance and institutional arrangements.


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How to Cite

Peter Britz. (2015). The history of South African inland fisheries policy with governance recommendations for the democratic era. Water SA, 41(5 October).