South Africa

Namibia and South Africa share many ecological, geographical, and historical characteristics, including the challenge of overfishing. While both countries embarked upon legal reform to address the problem, the authors of one study found that Namibia emerged as a “success case.”

Namibia quickly established a post-independence administrative body for managing fisheries and policies for long-term management. The study authors point to a number of indications of strong policy enforcement: Namibia has the highest penalties in the world for illegal vessels caught in the country’s jurisdiction; a monitoring system described as “effective in preventing illegal fishing to a large extent”; low violation rates; and onboard inspectors who cover 91.5 percent of all seagoing vessels in the country’s waters.b Namibia experienced a 15 percent decline in “overexploited and collapsed” fish stocks over six years.

South Africa also put into place administrative and judicial controls on fisheries after the fall of apartheid and initially experienced a decrease in illegal fishing. But within two years, support and funding for these institutions largely ended, and South Africa experienced an 11 percent rise in “overexploited and collapsed” fish stocks over the same six-year period.The authors conclude that South Africa faced challenges to putting in place more robust enforcement mechanisms for a number of reasons, including that South Africa had existing institutions in place and interests vested in maintaining those arrangements. Additionally, South Africa’s abundance of small, geographically-dispersed, artisanal fisheries made monitoring costlier and may have required unique institutional adaptations.

The contrast between the two countries’ experiences reinforces the finding that strong institutions bolster environmental rule of law and produce real and meaningful environmental benefits.