The Healthy and Sustainable Fishing Industry in South Africa
The fishing industry in South Africa is extensive and well managed. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is tasked with the responsibility of managing the coastal and marine resources in such a way, so as to ensure the safeguarding of the ecosystems. Sustainability of the fishing industry is closely related to how well the coastal and marine resources are managed and preserved.
With around 10 000 marine plant and animal species along the South African 3 000km coastline, the biodiversity of the plant and animal resources can only be described as impressive. However, protecting the resources against over usage is essential. It remains a challenging task to create and sustain a workable balance between resource protection and the development of the economic potential of the fishing industry in the country.
South Africa boasts 22 commercial fish-related sectors, with two main fishery sectors consisting of the industry of wild capture fishery and the aquaculture sector. The wild capture industry consists of subsistence, recreational, and commercial fishing components. All three components must be managed to protect the natural resources, and to ensure that economic and social needs can be met. The aquaculture sector is still in its infant phase, with more focus expected on this sector in future to reduce the pressure on natural wild stock.
Illegal fishing practices have placed additional pressure on the coastal and marine resources in the Western Cape. As a result, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has commenced with an extensive anti-poaching programme in the province, which includes the deployment of military veterans to help identify poaching activities in the Cape Town-Overberg region.
South Africans consume over 310 million kilogrammes of fish annually, from which around 50% is locally caught. Most of the fish consumed are sardines or hake. Over 94% of the fish caught by South African deep-sea trawlers are caught in the waters of the Western Cape province. With over 144 000 tonnes of hake caught annually in the Western Cape sea waters, one can understand why the fishing industry can be a major employer in the province.
Sales in the South African fishing industry bring in over R3,4 billion in total the foreign exchange income every year. With the fishery sector employing more than 26 500 people in the commercial sector, and the industry being worth R6 billion per year, it is one of the main income sectors in the country. According to the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association’s latest release on employment figures, a total of 7 050 people are directly employed in the deep-sea trawling industry.
With the coastal and marine resources forming an important part of the livelihood and nutrition sources of South Africans, sustainable management thereof is crucial. Sea Harvest recognises the need for sustainable fishing practices.
Sea Harvest is a member of the Responsible Fishing Alliance, a non-profit body consisting of various organisations that recognise the importance of preserving the marine ecosystems. Members of the Alliance have invested several millions in projects for improved eco-system management. The local deep-sea trawling fishing companies, such as Sea Harvest, follow sustainable fishing practices. Indeed, the SA deep-sea trawling industry has recently received the Marine Steward Council re-certification for a third time. The industry has been recognised for responsible and sustainable management.
In order to get certification, the industry had to undergo a one year re-assessment from an independent certification agency regarding all the operations under the fishery management. Compliance with the requirements of MSC allows for re-certification. To be certified, the industry must manage fishery in a manner that prevents over fishing and the decline in wild stock. The operations in the industry must not negatively affect the marine eco-system. The SA deep-sea fish trawling industry received high scores throughout.
The responsible fishing practices applied by companies, such as Sea Harvest, have helped to ensure a healthier stock level of hake in the South African fishing waters. The Cape horse mackerel levels have increased over the last few years, while the Agulhas sole levels have been stable for many years now. In addition, a 99% reduction in albatross deaths and injuries has been reported, because of the ongoing focus in the fishing industry on sustainable fishing practices.
For more information on South Africa’s sustainable fishing industry, contact us today.