top of page
  • Lisa

A step back for conservation or a step towards fairness for local communities?

The South African government just released a Gazette concerning the reopening of four zones to recreational angling within the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area. These areas will be so called “Controlled Zones”, within which specific angling rules apply (see further down).


The Tsitsikamma MPA is Africa’s oldest marine reserve, which was established in 1964. Since 2000, when the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs declared the State of Emergency for South African linefish stocks, all fishing activities within the MPA have been prohibited – including shore-based angling. Local communities, to which angling is an important part of their cultural heritage and their livelihood, were upset. The fight for a reopening to subsistence and recreational fishermen has been going on since. A reopening was nearly achieved in 2006/07, but the proposal was finally turned down due to numerous objections by leading marine scientists and environmentalists.

What consequences can be expected?

Marine Protected Areas serve as important nursery and recovery grounds for a large number of species. More than 200 fish species were recorded in the Tsitsikamma MPA alone (SANParks 2012), many of which are of high ecological and economical importance. Studies have shown that especially slow-growing reef species, such as White Musselcracker (Sparodon durbanensis), White Steenbras (Lithognathus lithognathus) or Red Roman (Chrysoblephus laticeps), were significantly more abundant and larger inside the MPA than they were in adjacent unprotected areas (King 2005, Smith 2005).

White Musselcracker (Sparodon durbanensis) caught in Nature’s Valley, just outside the Tsitsikamma MPA © Seatheworld Photography

A recent study by the author (Schroeter 2015) showed that several linefish populations in the adjacent Plettenberg Bay area are overexploited. Despite a temporal decline of catch numbers and catch rates, Plettenberg Bay shows relatively high values in comparison to other popular fishing areas along the South African coastline, such as Goukamma (Van Zyl 2011), Wilderness (Smith 2012) or KwaZulu-Natal (Dunlop 2011). This result indicates that Plettenberg Bay is likely to profit from its unique location, bordering the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area. Thus a re-opening of the MPA to fishing is likely to affect not only Plettenberg Bay’s fish communities, but consequently its economy, which is highly dependent on tourism.

Who will be allowed to fish in the MPA?

Not everyone will be eligible to fish inside the Tsitsikamma MPA: Only anglers from the Tsitsikamma community (people living between Covie and the Bloukraans River within 8 kilometers or less directly north of the MPA and any community within the Koukamma Local municipality) can register as so called “Tsitsikamma anglers”. They are also required to have an ordinary recreational fishing and/or bait collecting permit.

What rules will apply?

Angling will only be allowed for a maximum of 4 days per angler per calendar month within the “Tsitsikamma Coastal Controlled Zones” (see map) and with firm restrictions:

  • A cumulative bag limit of 3 fish in total per person per day (for all species with a recreational bag limit less than ten)

  • A cumulative bag limit of 10 fish in total per person per day (for all species without a recreational bag limit or of 10 or more)

  • Prohibited species are

  • all Elasmobranchs

  • Red Steenbras (Petrus rupestris)

  • White Steenbras (Lithognathus lithognathus)

  • Those species mentioned on the prohibited species list for recreational angling

  • For bait, 50% of the recreational bag limits apply

  • No bait shall be collected below the low-water mark

  • No line-fishing during the night (19:00-06:00 in summer, 18:00-06:00 in winter)

  • Only shore-fishing is allowed

  • Only rod and reel or handlines are to be used

Anglers, who do not stick to the rules, risk a fine of up to R 5 million or up to 5 years in prison for the first conviction and twice the penalty for the second conviction.

Map of the suggested Controlled Zones inside the MPA

Open Questions

The gazette does not mention whether and, if so, how the rules are going to be enforced. It is likely that the enforcement team will mainly include members of the local communities themselves and thus it is questionable whether fines for non-compliance are going to be enforced thoroughly - a general problem within the angling sector.

Furthermore it is debateable in how far the local communities, specifically subsistence fishermen, are finally going to profit from the reopening if the maximum rule of 4 days of angling per month, applies.


The government gazettes will be open for public comments until the 1.2.2016. You will find more information and instructions in the gazettes, which you can download here:

Articles on the initial reopening plan in 2006/07 can be found here:


Dunlop, S.W. 2011. An assessment of the shore-based and offshore boat-based linefisheries of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. M.Sc. Thesis. University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. 211 pp.

King, C.M. 2005. Towards a new approach for coastal governance with an assessment of the Plettenberg Bay shore-based linefishery. MSc thesis. Rhodes University, South Africa. 175 pages.

Schroeter, L. 2015. Caught in the middle: A reassessment of shore-based linefishery between two Marine Protected Areas in South Africa. MSc thesis. University of Bremen. Germany. 66 pages.

Smith, M.K.S. 2005. Towards a new approach for coastal governance with an assessment of the Plettenberg Bay nearshore linefisheries. MSc thesis. Rhodes University. South Africa. 226 pages.

Smith, M.K.S. 2012. Garden Route National Park – Wilderness Section Coastal Marine Resource Use Monitoring Programme. Scientific Report Number 05/2012. South African National Parks. Skukuza.

South African National Parks (SANParks). 2012. Garden Route National Park Management Plan. (Last accessed: 20.8.15)

van Zyl, C.S. 2011. The use of a Roving Creel Survey to monitor exploited coastal fish species in the Goukamma Marine Protected Area, South Africa. MSc thesis. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. South Africa. 102 pp.

#Tsitsikamma #Angling #MarineProtectedArea #Conservation #Politics

Subscribe to the ELMO Newsletter

Thank you for subscribing!

bottom of page