Fishing companies at the top of “Most Empowered Companies” list

Companies with interests in fishing were at the top of the Most Empowered Companies list, announced in Johannesburg on Thursday October 6 and published in Business Report last Friday.

African Equity Empowerment Investments, which topped the list of Most Empowered Companies, is parent company to Premier Fishing, which holds rights in the rock lobster fishery, the small pelagic fishery for sardine and anchovy, the squid fishery and the deep sea trawl and longline fisheries. In second place was South Africa’s biggest fishing company, the Oceana Group.

Both companies were scored against the Department of Trade and Industry’s 2013 Codes of Good Practice.

Research for the annual survey of South Africa’s Top 100 JSE-listed companies was conducted by the independent economic empowerment verification and research agency, Empowerdex.

Francois Kuttel, chief executive of the Oceana Group, says the fact that companies with interests in fishing feature so prominently in the Most Empowered Companies list is unsurprising. A report released by Empowerdex earlier this year showed that the deep sea trawling industry (South Africa’s most valuable commercial fishery with annual sales in excess of R5 billion), is at least 62.36% black owned.

“The fishing industry has undergone a sea change over the past 25 years. For example, prior to 1990 only a handful of companies held rights in the deep sea trawl fishery – all of them large and predominantly white-owned. Today, there are 52 right-holders and many of them are small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that have invested in vessels, factories and other capital equipment and are operating successfully alongside the large companies that remain in the fishery,” said Kuttel.

“Structural change has been good for the industry which is today more competitive than ever before.”

Oceana is one of the 52 right-holders in the deep-sea trawl fishery, a capital-intensive industry that requires large vessels and extensive skill to harvest hake about 100 nautical miles from the coast, with nets cast up to 800 meters deep and vessels sometimes riding 6 m swells. The catch is delivered to fish & chip shops in every corner of South Africa and processed and packaged into fish fingers and other popular hake products for local supermarkets. There is also a demanding international market that is supplied with a range of value-added hake products.

Collectively, the deep sea trawling industry employs 7 050 people at sites in Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth. Wages are negotiated at industry level and employees are offered a range of benefits including a variety of training opportunities and scope for career progression.

The deep-sea trawl fishery is certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the world’s gold standard of sustainability ratings.