SADSTIA gets MSC vote of confidence

The 51 trawler owners and operators in South Africa’s Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) yesterday received word that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has approved a further five-year certification for the deep-sea trawl fishery.

Read the MSC public certification report here: https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/south-atlantic-indian-ocean/south-africa-hake-trawl-fishery/south-african-hake-second-reassessment-documents/20150526_PCR_HAK108.pdf

This is the third time the fishery has secured certification from the MSC, the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling program for sustainable wild-caught seafood. In 2004 it became the first hake fishery in the world to be judged by the MSC as “sustainable and well managed”; after the initial five-year certification period came to an end in 2009, the fishery was re-assessed and re-certified for a five-year period in 2010. The latest certification comes after a rigorous 12-month re-assessment process during which an independent certification agency scrutinised every aspect of the fishery’s management and once again found it to comply with the MSC’s main principles. These are:

• a fishery is conducted in such a way that it does not lead to over fishing or a decrease in the stock;
• fishing operations do not impact on the health of the marine ecosystem;
• fishing is managed and regulated in a responsible way.

“The certification is an important achievement for the deep-sea fishery and very good news for South Africa,” said Dr Johann Augustyn, secretary of SADSTIA.

“Recent economic studies have shown that securing the health of the deep-sea fishery has prevented the loss of up to 12 000 jobs within the fishing industry and growing demand (particularly in northern Europe) for certified sustainable seafood products has resulted in the expansion of export markets worth US$197 million (R2.24 billion).”

According to Tim Reddell, chairman of SADSTIA and a director of Viking Fishing, one of the advantages of holding MSC certification is that it has made trawler owners and operators more aware of the ways in which their vessels and operations interact with the environment.

“It has focused our attention on ensuring that we achieve the criteria of sustainable utilisation of the resource,” says Reddell.
Since the initial MSC certification in 2004, improved fishing practices have resulted in major environmental achievements. For instance:

• Trawl grounds have been “ring fenced” so as to prevent damage to lightly trawled areas and protect natural refuges for hake. Trawling outside the ring fenced zone requires an environmental impact assessment.
• There has been a 99% reduction in the number of albatrosses that are accidentally injured and sometimes killed by trawl gear.
• Bycatch (species other than hake that are caught in trawl nets, including kingklip and monk) is better managed than ever before.
• The industry is funding and supporting a ground-breaking, long-term research project that will examine the impacts of trawling on the marine environment. The research is being conducted in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the University of Cape Town and the South African Environmental Observation Network.

South Africa’s deep-sea trawl fishery is the only fishery in Africa to have achieved accreditation from the MSC. It is one of approximately 250 fisheries around the world that have been certified by the MSC. Together, MSC-certified fisheries currently catch about nine million metric tonnes of seafood annually – close to 10% of the total harvest from wild capture fisheries.