Deep-sea trawl operators and WWF-SA team up to tackle by-catch issue

A new collaboration between the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) and WWF South Africa (WWF-SA), which was announced in Cape Town today, will dramatically improve the management of 12 fish species that are caught alongside hake in the deep-sea trawl fishery.

SADSTIA and WWF-SA are to work together to implement the three year South African Offshore Trawl Bycatch Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) which will “undertake research, implement practical actions, and generally improve the environmental performance and sustainability of the fishing activity of SADSTIA’s members, with a particular focus on non-target species management”.

The non-target species are kingklip (Genypterus capensis), monk (Lophius vomerinus), angelfish (Brama brama), Cape dory (Zeus capensis), gurnard (Chelidonichthys capensis), horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis), jacopever (Helicolenus dactylopterus), octopus (Octopus vulgaris), panga (Pterogymnus laniarus), ribbonfish (Lepidopus caudatus, also called “butter snoek”), snoek (Thyrsites atun) and a number of skate species.

Although these species are collectively referred to as “non target species” or “by-catch”, they are retained and processed by trawl operators and many of the lower value species, for example panga, snoek and angelfish, are valued as a source of good quality animal protein by lower income groups, particularly in the Western Cape.

In spite of their importance, the management of these species has traditionally taken a backseat to the Cape hakes (Merluccius paradoxusand M. capensis) that are the target of the deep-sea trawl fishery. The FCP seeks to improve knowledge about these non-target species and improve their management. It consists of eight activities including:

· A stakeholder analysis to identify the people and organisations that will play an essential role in the FCP.

· An effort to accurately quantify and identify fishes that are discarded.

· Improved data collection and improved observer coverage of the fishery.

· A detailed replacement yield analysis for an initial seven and a total of 12 non-target species.

· An intiative to monitor and manage the main non-target species.

· A guiding document that lays out the EAF objectives of the fishery.

· A report on the socio-economic impact of the fishery.

Although the objective of the FCP is to fundamentally improve the management of the deep-sea trawl fishery as a whole, an intended spin-off for SADSTIA and its members is that certain species will move off the Red-list or Orange-list of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) and towards a WWF-SASSI Green-listing.

As Tim Reddell, chairman of SADSTIA and a director of Viking Fishing explains, improved WWF-SASSI ratings will substantially enhance the image of SADSTIA which has done so much to improve its environmental footprint.

“It is 12 years since the South African trawl fishery for hake was first certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council and in that time the industry has more than lived up to the conditions of certification. This latest partnership with WWF-SA is another important step towards improving the environmental footprint of the fishery. We have to pay attention to these non-target species and improve their management,” he says.

While the FCP is underway, an “Improvement Icon” will be used by WWF-SASSI to indicate that an improvement project is underway for the main non-target species caught in the deep-sea trawl fishery. This will ensure that WWF-SASSI participating retailers, restaurants and suppliers who have made commitments to sustainable seafood and supporting fisheries under improvement can easily identify which species are part of this FCP. Consumers will also be able to easily access this information as the improvement icon will be used on all the WWF-SASSI public resources, including the WWF-SASSI pocket cards, posters, FishMS, mobile app and website.

Read more about the eight activities planned for the FCP.

View details of the 53 vessels that are participating in the FCP