Sharing Blog

Empty or livelihood space? Changing narratives about the ocean space and ocean defenders in the roll out of Blue Economy plans

Andrea Logo

One Ocean Hub, University of Strathclyde, UK

Visit website
  • Environmental defenders,
  • blue economy,
  • Blue Justice,
  • advocacy,
  • 2023,
  • early career researchers,
  • transdisciplinarity
Target Group
  • Researchers,
  • Journalists,
  • Community workers,
  • Policy makers
  • English
Location map

This blog highlights the collaboration of One Ocean Hub early-career researchers and ocean defenders in unpacking conflict and complexities in the South African Blue Economy.

Published in April 26 2023, this blog highlights the collaboration of One Ocean Hub early-career researchers Taryn Pereira (Rhodes University) and Aphiwe Moshani (University of Cape Town) from the Coastal Justice Network together with Sinegugu Zukulu (Sustaining the Wild Coast), Melisa Pullen (The Collective), Ntsindiso Nongcavu (Coastal Links Eastern Cape) and Jerry Mngomezulu (Kosi Bay Affected Communities) to the session of a workshop titled “Defending the ocean at the kelp roots: Stories from Small scale fisher ocean defenders in South Africa”. This conversation brought forward concerns regarding the implementation of Blue Economy policies often overlooking the needs and rights of coastal communities and ocean defenders, treating the ocean primarily as a source of economic capital rather than recognizing its cultural and livelihood significance to these communities.

In South Africa, this has led to resistance from small-scale fishers and local communities who feel excluded from decision-making processes and criminalized for defending their customary rights and environmental interests. Workshops organized by the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment and other stakeholders have highlighted the diverse governmental interpretations of the Blue Economy, ranging from natural capital to drivers of innovation, which often conflict with traditional practices and the realities of coastal communities. Despite these challenges, solidarity strategies and the use of art as a resistance tool have been identified as crucial for bridging the gap between local communities and broader environmental justice movements, raising public awareness, and fostering inclusive governance.