The Responsible Management of Fishing Companies in Cape Town Protects Our Resources

Fishing charters, such as Sea Harvest, in Cape Town provide employment opportunities for a large number of people in the province. Deep-sea trawling remains an important component of the South African fishing industry, and over 94% of the fish caught and consumed in the waters around Cape Town by such fishing companies are hake and sardines. The management of the fish resources, however, is essential to ensure future harvests, and to protect the ecosystem in the South African waters.

Hake Fishing

The two species of hake found in the waters surrounding South Africa are that of the deep-water Merluccius paradoxus and the shallow-water Merluccius capensis. The deep-water hake is found in depths ranging from 100 metres up to 1 000 meters. The shallow-water hake lives near the shore and at lower depths. The further offshore the species live, the larger in size they grow.

The fishing companies in Cape Town mostly trawl in the deeper waters, but shallow-water hake is mostly caught on the south coast. The hake caught in the South African waters is known as Cape hake, even though the deep- and shallow-water hake species are distinctively different.

Hake is also caught by fisheries in the handline and longline industries. Inshore trawling and longline fishing catch around 6% of the total allowable catch, with deep-sea trawling accounting for around 84%, and the handline sector for around 4% of the total allowable catch.

Deep-sea fishing companies trawl from the border with Namibia, along the west coast to Cape Town, and then through to PE. The deep-sea trawling industry comprises over 26 wet fish trawlers and over 25 freezer trawlers.

Deep-sea trawling entails different methods of catching fish, with otter trawling being the most used technique. It entails the usage of a large fish net that is trawled behind the ship with the net. The net has a wide opening with boards attached on the side of the net. When the net is full of fish, the net is brought back onto the vessel and emptied.

The fish is cleaned and stored on the freezer trawlers, and on the wet fish vessels, the fish is stored for cleaning and processing at the fish factories on land.

The inshore fishing companies are mainly focussed on the hake and Agulhas sole from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth. The vessels are smaller than the deep-sea trawlers, with lower horsepower engines. Longline fishery is focussed on catching hake. The system used entails a double line system, which includes baited hooks that extend for several kilometres close to the seafloor. With this method, deep- and shallow-water hake are caught. With handline fishery, baited hooks on a hand line are used for catching the fish. Handline fishery predominately takes place between Stilbaai and Port Alfred.

How the Total Allowable Catch Works

The two most popular ways for managing the total number of fish caught in South Africa, including the Cape Town region, are that of total allowable catch, known as TAC, and total allowable effort, known as TAE. With TAC, there is a maximum limit on the fish that can be caught for the particular period, which is normally a year, without affecting the future numbers of fish. Each of the fishing companies gets an annual quota and may not catch more than the set quota.

The second method of TAE limits the number of boats and people per boat. With this method, the total effort is restricted. Deep-sea trawling is subject to TAE, as well as TAC. Every charter is limited to a specific number of fish per annum, and the number of days per year that the charter can catch fish.

Sustainability Measures

No foreign trawlers or fishing companies are allowed to catch fish in South African sea waters. A special conservation programme is in place to ensure the sustainability of fishing practices in the hake industry. South Africa’s deep-sea trawling industry received Marine Steward Council certification for the first time in 2004, and has since then been re-certified twice for the responsible management of the marine and coastal resources. Efforts put in place include, but are not limited to, the compulsory usage of tori lines, scientific monitoring, limits on by-catch species, ring fence programmes and the limitation of fleet sizes.