Minister Barbara Creecy’s speech to the Fisheries Stakeholder Forum meeting, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Good evening. Thank you very much for coming this evening. I know that many of you have traveled from far, when you leave here you’ve got a long way to go and this meeting hasn’t been short. So thank you very much for your time, thank you for your patience, it’s not something that we take for granted.

When myself and the Deputy Minister (Makhotso Sotyu, MP) took a decision to convene this meeting this evening, I got a lot of phone calls. People said to me “you’re mad, you’re going into a very rough situation”. So I said “well I’m sure if we go there and we say that we want to hear what the problem is, people can’t be rough”. Because if you have a problem, you need those of us who have been elected to serve the public, to come and listen to what the public is saying is a problem. So that’s why we came, because I think that we are very clear – myself and the Deputy Minister – that our job is to serve you. It’s not your job to serve us. And that’s what the short five years while we are in this Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries, that is going to be the culture of the organisation. The organisation must serve you, you must not be serving the organisation.

So, we’ve heard a lot tonight, about how you feel outside of the industry that you want to be part of. How you feel separated from those natural resources that you feel you should have ownership of. And I think that if you listened to our President when he spoke at his inauguration, and no doubt if some of you listen to our President when he speaks tomorrow night [State of the Nation Address, 20 June 2019], you will hear him talk about the fact that we have to grow our economy, but we also have to make our economy more inclusive. And that means that those who feel outside of it, have to find a way that can come into it. So, we understand in listening to you, that there are different interests and groups within the fishing sector. We understand that there are big companies and medium sized companies and small companies. And we understand that there are also individuals who feel that somehow they have fallen out of the net. And we understand that in solving the problems of the different sectors of the industry, it’s not going to be a one-size fits all approach. We understand that. And I think tonight we’ve heard a lot about the frustrations of some of the small players and we’ve heard an appeal from the small players to the bigger players that, “we don’t want to have to bash down this door, we’d like you to open it”. I’m sure the big players also have something to say about how they think they can open that door, and how they think they can grow this industry so that everybody can benefit. And I want to suggest, because time is always the most difficult and the most precious commodity, I want to suggest that those of you who want to add specific things to tonight’s engagement, let me give you my email address: minister@environment.gov.za.

And what I’m asking you to do there is – if you want to write to me, tell me specifics about your sector. Because it’s not realistic that myself and the Deputy Minister in the near future are going to meet with 11 sectors of one federation. Unfortunately, time is not permitting that because we have to take decisions and we have to take them quickly.

So, it seems to me from listening to you, that FRAP 2020 is a problem. Am I right? And when I was listening to you, a question that was going through my mind – and I’m just asking you for your advice here – should I press the pause button on FRAP 2020? [Loud applause.] Remember, you’re just giving me advice, I’m just asking.

Yesterday, as you’ve heard our Deputy Minister (say), we did meet with the Department and I’ve heard all your criticisms of the Department. The Department was very self-critical of themselves yesterday. You should know that. They were very self-critical. They gave us a presentation. It was a very honest presentation. You would be shocked by how honest it was. And, what I said to them is that we would want to take a bit of time to assess the problems there that are leading to a lack of research, problems around allocation, problems around lack of monitoring, problems around collections. I think that there’s a recognition from colleagues within the Department that things could work a lot better than it’s working. And obviously it’s easy for a Minister and a Deputy Minister to come here for two-and-a-half hours, but if we want to get the system to work properly, we’ve got to take a little bit of time to understand what is causing the problems and how do we fix it. So that’s the second thing I want to ask your advice on. Should we take that little bit of time to understand the problems in the Department so we can fix them from the root? [Loud applause.]

I’ll tell you something about myself. When I commit to doing something, I do it. I’ve been in government for a long time. I think you’ve been disappointed, you don’t need to be disappointed anymore.

Now, in Gauteng, which is where I come from, we introduced something in the allocation of government tenders, it was called the “open tender process”. And what we did, was that when we made the decision about who should be allocated a tender, we invited all the competing companies to come there and to sit there – they couldn’t participate in the discussion, but they could watch the discussion. We did it in public. When we introduced it, people said “you’re crazy, you’re going to be in court every day.” Well, we issued 82 tenders through that process worth something like R75 billion and we weren’t in court on one day, because everybody saw what happened and who got what and why. I think the only way we’re going to solve this quota issue in the fishing industry, and the licensing issue in the fishing industry is we’re going to have to make those decisions in public. [Loud applause.] It’s got to be open and it’s got to be in public. Because when things are secret, even if something is not wrong, we all think it’s wrong. We all think somebody’s brother or sister, or, you know. So that’s why I think we’ve got to hit the pause button on FRAP 202O. Because if it’s going to be determining your livelihoods, all of you, in one way or another for the next seven or eight years, we should have a proper process. That you don’t spend the next seven or eight years questioning that process. I know some licenses are for longer than others. So, that is something that I think we would want to look at.

We have got to sort out the issue of research. Why do we have to sort out the issue of research? Because, when you make decisions, you must make decisions on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of prejudice. At least, I have to make decisions on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of prejudice. And I think that what we all understand is when we’re talking about protecting our natural resources, we’re not talking about protecting them for some people, somewhere; we’re talking about making sure that our children and our grandchildren still can find fish in the sea. Because there are seas in the world where there are no fish anymore. So that’s something that we need proper objective, scientific evidence. And again, that evidence must be available for all of you. I agree that we can’t just centralise the process of issuing licenses here, in Cape Town. Because one understands that we’ve got 3 000 kilometres of coast and that we are going to have to find a way that people in all other different parts can be part of it. When we talk about inclusion, bringing those who feel left out, in, it’s no good giving you a permit but you have no other means of support. We have to look at how do we build new businesses and new industries. Because if you don’t do that, all you’re doing is saying to people is “you can do this” but truth be told, you won’t be able to. So we’ve got to look at what they call the “value chain”. What are the things that will enable you to use that, and how will we help you to build that capacity? I agree with you. You can’t use experience as the basis for exclusion, as a basis to say “no you can’t come in”. What you’ve got to say is “how do you enable newcomers to come in? But let’s also agree that there are not enough fish in the sea for everybody who wants to fish. And that is where this issue of aquaculture comes in. And there are many fishing nations where aquaculture is huge. It’s very small here at the moment. But it’s something that we have to look at to see how do we develop fish. Because this issue of food security is very important. It’s a very important protein source and we’ve got to make it available to more people. I also think the point that was made here about the small harbours is a very important point. Because again, not everybody will be able to be fishing or in aquaculture. But what else can these communities do? And so, we have to look at how do we create other opportunities. Whether it’s in tourism, whether it’s in boat building or any other kinds of activities.

So colleagues, what I want to suggest is that you have helped us a lot this evening. You have helped myself and the Deputy Minister to get some understanding of some of the problems of the sector. I understand that there are other problems that have not come out tonight and that’s why I’ve given you my email address so that you can add more information about other kinds of problems. But the suggestion I think we’d want to make is that we need to come up with a comprehensive plan to repair some of the problems and the capacity problems in the Department and we also need to come up with a more comprehensive plan as to how we are going to make the allocation of the licenses an open and transparent process that all of you in your different categories can benefit from.

So, on that note, I want to thank you once again for being with us. I want to thank you for your advice and I want to say that I hope tonight is the beginning of a partnership. Not just a once-off. Okay, it’s not a one-night stand, alright? It’s the beginning of a partnership and a partnership that should actually help us to help us to repair the damage in the Department, but more importantly repair the industry so that all of us can prosper from this industry.

Thank you for coming. Thank you for listening.

SADSTIA announces expanded graduate internship programme

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) has partnered with the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA) to expand the Association’s graduate internship programme, enabling it to provide paid, structured internships for 20 young South Africans in 2019.

The first phase of the SADSTIA internship programme was initiated in April this year when eight graduates were placed at SADSTIA member companies and the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries (formerly the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries). These interns are paid a stipend by SADSTIA and managed by WWF through the organisation’s highly successful Graduate Internship Programme.

A further 12 internships were made possible when SADSTIA secured the necessary funding from the TETA.

“We are very excited to have created 12 more opportunities for new graduates,” said Terence Brown, chairman of SADSTIA.

“Over the past decade, SADSTIA members have collaborated very successfully with the TETA. This collaboration enabled the industry to provide paid and structured learnerships to thousands of job seekers. The new partnership takes us in a new direction, but with the same objective – to work together to address youth unemployment.”

The 12 new SADSTIA interns will be placed at SADSTIA member companies and the offices of SADSTIA and its umbrella fishing industry association, FishSA. The interns are newly graduated with a wide variety of qualifications, from human resources to environmental science.

UCT professor honoured with a prestigious award

University of Cape Town (UCT) applied mathematician and fisheries scientist Professor Emeritus Doug Butterworth, who works closely with SADSTIA to ensure the management of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery is underpinned by robust scientific advice, has received a prestigious award from the Emperor of Japan.

Butterworth was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by Emperor Naruhito in recognition of his contribution towards ensuring the sustainable use of marine living resources by Japan, in particular southern bluefin tuna, one of the world’s most valuable fisheries.

The Order of the Rising Sun was established in 1875 and is awarded for distinguished achievements in the advancement of one’s field. Previous recipients include the American actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood and French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel.
“I am very honoured to be recognised in such company and pay tribute to the colleagues who have assisted with my work,” said Butterworth.

Butterworth, who also previously received South Africa’s highest National Order of Mapungubwe (Silver), has been responsible for developing the scientific methods underlying the management of nearly all South Africa’s major fisheries. He has made major contributions internationally to the analysis and management of bluefin tuna and various whale populations, as well as Antarctic krill and fisheries in Canada and the United States.

In the two decades that Butterworth has served on Japan’s delegation to the Scientific Committee of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, he played a leading role in developing a management approach that saw the highly threatened resource under international litigation move to a situation where it is well on the route to recovery.

Commenting on Butterworth’s contribution to the field, Sir John Beddington, former chief scientific adviser to the government of the United Kingdom, said that Butterworth was among one of a small group of people he would cite as having made the biggest contribution to renewable resource management over the past few decades.

Dr Ana Parma, leading South American fisheries scientist, added that Butterworth’s impact had been amplified through training a generation of students, a number of whom are now leaders in the field. “I am very pleased to see his major contributions to fisheries science and management recognised internationally,” she said.

Butterworth is recognised worldwide as a primary developer of the “management procedure” approach to fisheries management, which allows the precautionary principle – which aims to minimise risks and protect fish stocks in the face on incomplete knowledge – to be incorporated into management decisions. This has led to South Africa being regarded as the world leader in the field.

Internationally, Butterworth has successfully promoted the approach among several regional fishery management organisations. His advice on fisheries is widely sought, and over the course of his career, Butterworth has helped more than 30 countries, fishing industry groupings and international fishery management organisations.

Fishing companies caution government over rights allocations

Fishing companies that catch hake for local and international markets, delivering R6.7 billion to the South African economy annually, have cautioned that sensible rights allocations are necessary to preserve international competitiveness and jobs in coastal areas.

Releasing the findings of an independent, industry-wide socio-economic study of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery in Cape Town today, chairman of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA), Terence Brown, said that the industry’s well developed, unique economic characteristics should be front of mind during the fishing rights allocation process scheduled for completion in 2020.

Long-term rights for 12 commercial fisheries will be allocated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) next year. Similar processes conducted by DAFF in 2013 and 2015/2016 were highly controversial and characterised by lengthy delays, prolonged litigation, disruption of fishing and the destruction of value for individuals and companies invested in fishing.

Consultations with stakeholders around the policy that will underpin the fishing rights allocation process of 2020 are considered crucial and are expected to begin in April this year.

“The hake deep-sea trawl fishery is an industrial-scale fishery,” said Brown, “it does not in any way compete for resources with small-scale fisheries because it fishes in deep, offshore waters that are inaccessible to small boats. To overlook the risky, capital-intensive nature of the deep-sea trawl industry, and the need for economies of scale in the catching and processing of Cape hake, would be to risk destroying this industry which currently provides compelling value and thousands of good jobs in coastal areas.”

The socio-economic study released by SADSTIA today was completed late last year by Genesis Analytics, a respected South African economics consultancy. It quantifies, for the first time, the socio-economic contribution of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.

Genesis Analytics’ researchers calculated that if the quotas of existing rights holders are reduced by 10% in 2020, the objectives of the Marine Living Resources Act and the National Development Plan would not be met and the socio-economic contribution of the fishery would be materially reduced – for little or no gain in economic or political transformation. This would have a major impact on production costs, resulting in a forced restructuring of the industry and job losses.

Moreover, because the industry is substantially more transformed today than it was 14 years ago, reallocation of rights to new entrants will increasingly destroy value for historically disadvantaged persons (HDPs) who have invested in the industry, including employees who are invested via employee share schemes.

According to the Genesis Analytics report, HDPs currently hold approximately 66% of the equity in the firms harvesting 90% of the hake deep-sea trawl catch and the same or higher amongst the remaining smaller firms. Shareholding by HDPs has more than doubled from around 30% in 2005 (when rights were last allocated).

The key findings of the Genesis Analytics study include:

  • Total economic contribution of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery – R6.7 billion per year.
  • Value of Cape hake sales – R4.5 billion per year.
  • Number of employees – 7 300, fully unionised and often multi-generational workers providing maximum beneficiation of product within South Africa.
  • Wages – sea-going workers earn approximately R20 000 per month, while quayside and factory workers earn R10 000 per month, on average – far above the national minimum wage.
  • SME investment – spend with small- and medium-sized enterprises totals R335 million per year, of which 57% is with > 50% black-owned SMEs.

“We believe that the findings of the Genesis Analytics study are critically important and we are confident that DAFF will consider them seriously,” said Brown. “Our fishery is South Africa’s most valuable. It is transformed, sustainable and internationally competitive – a true South African success story. Our vision is for the fishery to continue providing a full range of benefits to the people of South Africa for generations to come.”

The Executive Summary of the Genesis Analytics report “Economic study of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery and implications for future fishing rights allocation policy” is available here.

The key findings of the study are available here.


ISSUED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEEP-SEA TRAWLING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, 7 March 2019

For more information, please contact:

Terence Brown, chairman of SADSTIA: TerenceB@seaharvest.co.za or 082 044 0054
Claire Attwood, SADSTIA communications: claire@fishmedia.co.za or 083 290 7995

Notes for editors

  1. SADSTIA is a recognised industrial body that represents 33 rights holders in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.
  2. Genesis Analytics is the largest economics-based consulting firm in Africa. The company uses its analytical capabilities to improve decision-making and, through better decisions, to unlock substantial value for its clients and society as a whole.

The global footprint of bottom trawling is smaller than we think

The global footprint of bottom trawling is not as large as many assume and varies dramatically by region. For example, at the extremes, just 0.4% of the seabed off Southern Chile is trawled, compared to 80% of the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy. On South Africa’s west coast, between 12 and 14% of the continental shelf is trawled, while on the south coast, 9 to 11% of the seabed is trawled. Trawling is for hake, a South African seafood staple and the basis of a sustainable and successful export industry.

A paper that attempts to quantify the global extent of trawling was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) earlier this month. South African scientists, Deon Durholtz, Tracey Fairweather and Rob Leslie, who work for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, were part of a team of 57 fisheries scientists led by Ricardo Amoroso of the University of Washington, who used a combination of satellite tracking data and the logbooks of fishing skippers and scientific observers to collate very precise information about the extent of bottom trawling and dredging on the continental shelves of 24 ocean regions, including North America, South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The study excluded some regions where the quality of data was poor, notably in Asia, but it still represents the most comprehensive and accurate study of the global footprint of bottom trawling ever conducted.

Nearly all bottom-trawling, a method of fishing that involves dragging a weighted net along the seafloor to scoop up fish, occurs on continental shelves or slopes – the relatively shallow areas off the coasts of landmasses that eventually slope down into the deep sea. These areas are mostly shallower than 500m.

Bottom trawling is used to catch about 19 million tons of fish per year – about a quarter of all the fish caught in the world – but it has been criticised for causing damage to the seabed and triggering the depletion of fish stocks that live there, partly based on very high estimates of the areas affected.

The paper Bottom trawl fishing footprints on the world’s continental shelves, rolls back some of this criticism because it uses high definition data to show that the impact of trawling is much less than previously thought. Overall, 14% of the seafloor was trawled in the areas where high resolution data were available over the 2 to 6-year study period. Europe had the highest trawling footprint, while Australia and New Zealand had footprints below 10%.

Previous studies have suggested that bottom trawling takes place over an area equivalent to half of the world’s continental shelf, even though members of the fishing industry have consistently asserted the impact is much more limited because of their targeted use of well-defined fishing grounds, rather than widespread “ploughing” of the seabed.

Importantly for South Africa, the study shows that in regions where the bottom trawling footprint is less than 10 percent of the seafloor area, fishing rates on bottom-dwelling fish stocks almost always meet international sustainability benchmarks. South Africa’s trawl footprint is very close to the 10% threshold and a “ring-fence initiative” ensures it will stay that way. The ring-fence initiative is a voluntary undertaking by members of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) to only trawl on currently used grounds, prevent damage to lightly trawled areas and preserve natural refuges for hake. Trawling outside the ring-fenced area requires the completion of an environmental impact assessment.

“Despite the important contribution that trawling makes to global food security, it often gets a bad rap,” says Johann Augustyn, secretary of SADSTIA. “The study by Amoroso and his co-authors is important because it shows that trawling impacts a far smaller area of the seabed than was previously thought.”

Augustyn emphasised that the South African trawl fishery for hake is sustainable and well-managed, saying it is the only fishery in Africa to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for sustainable, wild-caught seafood.

“The Amoroso study is part of a larger effort known as the Trawling Best Practices Project,” he explained, “as an industry we are enthusiastically supporting this global initiative because ultimately it will publish a set of “best practices” for the methods, equipment, density and frequency of bottom trawling.”

Apply for a life-changing internship in the fishing industry

In September, SADSTIA announced that it would fund and support 10 internships in the field of fisheries management, aquaculture, environmental science and related fields.

Now, SADSTIA’s partner in the SADSTIA/DAFF/WWF Graduate Internship Programme, WWF, has called for interested students and graduates to apply for these exciting positions. Please follow this link to find out more.

The closing date for applications is 9 November 2018.

Fishing industry announces new opportunities for graduates

The companies active in South Africa’s deep-sea trawling industry have teamed up with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the conservation organisation WWF-South Africa to provide an opportunity for 11 new graduates to work in the field of fisheries management, aquaculture, environmental science and related fields.

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) announced today it is to sponsor 11 paid and structured internships for the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. The internships will form part of WWF’s highly successful Graduate Internship Programme which aims to provide a practical bridging experience for new graduates to make a career in the field of environmental sciences.

As the only fishery in Africa to be certified as sustainable and well-managed by the Marine Stewardship Council – the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for wild-caught seafood – SADSTIA already works closely with WWF on a range of fisheries improvement projects.

“Our members recognise that youth unemployment is one of the most serious challenges facing South Africa today and the SADSTIA/DAFF/WWF Internship Programme provides us with an opportunity to make a real difference and assist government,” said Terence Brown, chairman of SADSTIA. “We hope the programme will give individuals an opportunity to gain valuable work experience, link to professional networks and possibly establish a career in the fishing industry.”

Eight of the 11 SADSTIA/DAFF/WWF interns will be placed at fishing companies and three will be placed at the Fisheries Branch of the DAFF. The Fisheries Branch has a mandate to manage South Africa’s commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries and it requires a range of skills – including biological and mathematical knowledge, analytical and managerial ability – to name just a few.

DAFF has played a key role in the establishment of the internship programme and representatives of the Department expressed their appreciation for the opportunity of working with SADSTIA and WWF to tackle the critical problem of youth unemployment. The Department believes the programme will not only provide opportunities and inspiration to to new graduates, but it will help to secure the skills necessary to manage sustainable fisheries into the future. It intends to use the internship programme to build a cohort of young professionals skilled in freshwater aquaculture information management, feed development and animal health and husbandry.

SADSTIA research assistant, Fisokuhle Mbatha, who joined SADSTIA as an intern in April 2017 and was appointed to a full-time position with the Association as soon as her internship was complete, also shared her perspectives at the launch of the SADSTIA/DAFF/WWF Internship Programme, saying:

“My internship was the ‘mobile starter-pack’ I needed to build my career. It connected my academic knowledge of fisheries to the real-life work environment. I was offered many opportunities to network with professionals with expertise in marine science and working alongside them has motivated me to be an internationally recognised marine scientist in future.”

Mbatha holds a Masters Degree in Applied Marine Science from the University of Cape Town.

WWF will call for applications from prospective interns in October. Details of the application procedure will be posted to the SADSTIA website following the public advertisement.

Representatives of SADSTIA, WWF and DAFF launched an internship programme in Cape Town in September. Pictured from left are, Johann Augustyn, secretary of SADSTIA; Madoda Khumalo, strategic services executive at Sea Harvest and head of SADSTIA’s Scientific Committee; Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-South Africa; Fisokuhle Mbatha, SADSTIA research assistant; Glenda Raven, director of the WWF Graduate Internship Programme; Belemani Semoli, acting director general of the Fisheries Branch of DAFF; Sue Middleton, chief director of Fisheries Operations Support in the Fisheries Branch of DAFF; Terence Brown, operations director of Sea Harvest and chairman of SADSTIA; and Saasa Pheeha, acting chief director of Fisheries Research & Development in the Fisheries Branch of DAFF.

Hake has a low environmental impact

South African hake comes from a sustainable and well-managed fishery. Now an international study has revealed another good reason for choosing hake over beef and many other forms of animal protein: hake has a low environmental impact.

According to the study − published this week in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment − industrial beef production and farmed catfish have the greatest impact on the environment, while small, wild-caught fish and farmed molluscs like oysters, mussels and scallops have the lowest environmental impact.

Hake, pollock and cod were named as wild-caught fish with a relatively low impact.

“What you eat makes a difference to the environment,” said Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association. “South Africans are fortunate because locally caught hake is sustainable, affordable and versatile and we now know that it compares very favourably to other animal proteins when it comes to the environmental impact of its production.”

The environmental cost of animal source foods is authored by United States researchers Ray Hilborn, Jeannette Banobi, Stephen Hall, Teresa Pucylowski and Timothy Walsworth. They believe their study to be the most comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts of different types of animal protein production.

The study uses four measures as a way to compare environmental impacts across a number of different types of animal food production, including farm-raised seafood (aquaculture), livestock farming and seafood caught in the wild. The four measures are: energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, potential to contribute excess nutrients – such as fertilizer – to the environment, and the potential to emit substances that contribute to acid rain.

In order to make their comparisons, the researchers used a standard 40 grams of protein –the size of an average hamburger patty and the daily recommended protein serving – and calculated, for example, how much greenhouse gas was produced per 40 grams of protein across all food types, where data were available.

Their analysis revealed animal protein types that had low environmental impacts across all measures. These include farmed shellfish and molluscs, and capture fisheries such as sardines, mackerel and herring. Other capture fish choices with relatively low impact are whitefish like pollock, hake and the cod family. Farmed salmon also performed well.

The researchers found that, when compared to studies of vegetarian and vegan diets, a selective diet of aquaculture and wild capture fisheries has a lower environmental impact than either of the plant-based diets. Mollusc aquaculture – such as oysters, mussels and scallops – actually absorb excess nutrients that are harmful to ecosystems. Capture fisheries consistently scored better than aquaculture or livestock production because no fertilizer is used.

For capture fisheries, fuel used to power fishing vessels is the biggest environmental impact. However, the impact of trawling appears to be related to the abundance of fish; healthy stocks take less fuel to capture.

“The South African trawl fishery for hake has been certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) since 2004,” said Augustyn. “The MSC is the gold standard of eco-labelling programs for wild-caught fish. On the strength of this latest study, we can confidently say that South African hake is a good environmental choice.”

International experts lend scholarly weight to the trawl fishery’s management

The process of reviewing the Operational Management Procedure (OMP) used to manage the South African hake fishery is underway and a panel of international experts has contributed a number of recommendations that will strengthen and improve the review.

The experts – Sean Cox of Canada, Malcolm Haddon of Australia, Daniel Howell of Norway and Andre Punt of the United States – are acknowledged experts in the fields of quantitative fishery science, stock assessment, ecosystem modelling and statistical analysis of data. They led discussion at the International Fisheries Stock Assessment Review Workshop at the University of Cape Town (UCT) late last year. The annual workshop, which is convened by Emeritus Professor Doug Butterworth, head of the Marine Resource Assessment and Management (MARAM) Group at UCT’s Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). It performs a peer review function by providing local fisheries scientists with an opportunity to subject their stock assessment techniques and findings to the scrutiny of international experts in the field.

This year’s workshop focused on the assessment and management of hake, sardine and rock lobster, which are among South Africa’s most valuable fisheries. When considering the management of the hake fishery, the experts made a number of suggestions pertinent to the review of the OMP that is used to manage the fishery.

OMPs are used to manage most of South Africa’s major commercial fisheries. They utilise pre-determined sets of information – such as industry catch records and the results of annual research surveys – and apply a set of pre-determined harvest control rules to recommend an annual total allowable catch (TAC). They are generally revised every three to five years so that they may accommodate changing fishing practices and new knowledge about the behaviour or composition of fish stocks.

The OMP currently used for the South African hake fishery is known as OMP-14 because it was adopted by the Demersal Scientific Working Group of the DAFF in 2014 and has been used to set TACs for all the hake fisheries, including hake deep-sea trawl and hake inshore trawl fisheries. It is currently under review and will be implemented in time to recommend the TACs for the 2019 fishing season.

“The South African trawl fishery for hake is acknowledged as one of the best managed hake fisheries in the world,” said SADSTIA Secretary, Dr Johann Augustyn.

“We welcome the technical expertise and input of the international panel of experts and we are confident that the process of updating the OMP and adopting OMP-18 will further refine the management of the hake fishery.”

The South African hake fishery has been certified as sustainable and well-managed by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2004. It is the only fishery in Africa to have achieved such recognition. The MSC conducts annual surveillance audits of the fishery and is expected to embark on re-assessment of the fishery for a further five years in 2019.

  • The International Review Panel Report for the 2017 International Fisheries Stock Assessment Workshop is available here (technical document).
  • A non-technical summary (PowerPoint presentation) is available here.

Ellen Khuzwayo survey to quantify the impacts of trawling

The South African research vessel Ellen Khuzwayo departed on Monday 22 January from Cape Town on the fifth and final leg of an innovative five-year experiment that is expected to shed light on the contentious subject of trawling and the impact it has on the seabed.

Although bottom trawlers catch at least 20% of global marine fish catches and play an essential role in food security, trawling has been likened to “ploughing the sea floor” and criticised for inflicting irreversible damage on benthic (seabed) ecosystems.

The surveys conducted from the deck of Ellen Khuzwayo over the past five years are expected to provide a scientific view on this issue, particularly as it relates to the South African deep-sea trawling industry, South Africa’s most important commercial fishery.

Deep-sea trawlers target hake on trawl grounds that extend from the Namibian border on the west coast to the extreme eastern part of the Agulhas Bank near Port Elizabeth. Fishing takes place at depths of between 200 and 800m and it is estimated that trawling occurs in an area equivalent to 4.4% of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone.

The regularly trawled grounds of “Karbonkel”, located off the coast of the Northern Cape, with an average depth of 400m, were selected for the five-year “Benthic Trawl Experiment” (BTE) which is being implemented collaboratively by a number of partners, including the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA); the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) – which provides the research platform Ellen Khuzwayo; the University of Cape Town (UCT); the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

As chief scientist on the Ellen Khuzwayo, associate professor Colin Attwood of UCT explains that for the purposes of the BTE, the Karbonkel grounds were divided into five clearly defined trawl lanes:

“In the first year, trawlers were able to trawl the entire area, but in subsequent years they were only allowed to trawl in the second and fourth lane. We’re trying to find out if the sea life in the first, third and fifth lane has recovered, using the life in the second and fourth lane as a comparison.”

The researchers are using a sophisticated underwater camera to collect images of the seabed, and at pre-determined locations the crew of the Ellen Khuzwayo has deployed a simple underwater grab that has collected samples of the animals living on or in seabed sediments. A curious collection of crabs, anemones, urchins, brittle stars and worms has been extracted from the sediments of Karbonkel.

“We’re looking at the emergent macrofauna – the big animals that stick out of the sediment, like sea anemones, sea pens, that type of thing, and then there are the animals that live in the sediment itself, like heart urchins and crabs. We’re also looking at the structure of the sediment to see if it is being influenced in any way by repeated trawling,” explained Attwood.

As soon as the Ellen Khuzwayo returns to Cape Town, an intensive analysis of five years of data will begin and the team expects that in two to three months time it will have the information it needs to definitively say, for the first time, what the impacts of trawling are in South Africa.

“The outcome of the experiment is expected to address critical gaps in knowledge of the long-term effects of trawling and the capacity of deep-sea habitats to recover from such impacts,” said Dr Johann Augustyn, secretary of SADSTIA.

Although the BTE is the first experiment of its kind in South Africa, similar experiments have been conducted in other parts of the world and SADSTIA has participated in a ground-breaking international initiative to determine the global impacts of trawling. This study was conducted by a team of 16 researchers who analysed data from trawl fisheries around the globe. They published their results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July last year and determined that the impacts of trawling are highly variable; recovery times for plants and animals disturbed by trawling depend on the type of gear used and a range of environmental variables.

The South African trawl fishery for hake is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for sustainable, wild-caught seafood. Improving knowledge and understanding of the impacts of trawling on the benthic environment is one of the conditions of MSC certification.