SADSTIA hosts MSC Stakeholder Council members in Cape Town

SADSTIA members were provided with a unique opportunity to showcase the progress they have made with sustainable fisheries initiatives when the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) hosted its annual Stakeholder Council meeting in Cape Town last week.

The MSC is the oldest and most respected seafood certification body in the world and the South African trawl fishery is one of the few fisheries in Africa to have been certified by it.

The fishery was certified as sustainable and well managed in 2004, and again in 2010.

At this year’s meeting, members of the Stakeholder Council visited I&J’s harbour-side trawling division, as well as the company’s bustling Woodstock Primary Processing Plant. And SADSTIA hosted a dinner for members of the MSC Stakeholder Council at the Granger Bay Hotel School Restaurant in Green Point on Thursday night, following the visits to I&J.

At the dinner, Chairman of SADSTIA, Tim Reddell, provided guests with a brief introduction to the work that SADSTIA and its members have done to address the impacts that trawl gear may have on the seabed. He explained that one of the conditions of the 2004 MSC certification was that the Association should assess the impact that the fishery has on the benthic habitat and the organisms that live on the trawl grounds.

“SADSTIA and its members have gone far beyond what was necessary to meet the MSC conditions,” said Tim Reddell, “we have improved knowledge, ring-fenced the trawl grounds, invested in on-going research and opened channels of communication between industry and the conservation community.”

Tim Reddell provided some insight into the ring-fence initiative, an undertaking by SADSTIA members to trawl only on currently used grounds, prevent damage to lightly trawled areas and preserve natural refuges for hake. He also talked about a three-year collaboration between SADSTIA, the University of Cape Town and other researchers to improve understanding of the environmental impact of hake trawling [link to news items on the seabed experiment] in South Africa.

At an earlier meeting, Tim Reddell described other responsible fisheries practices implemented by SADSTIA and its members, such as the mitigation of seabird bycatch that has reduced the number of albatrosses killed by trawl gear by 99%. He reiterated that one of the benefits of MSC certification has been to raise awareness of sustainable fisheries practices within the Association.

“It makes you think about how you interact with the environment,” he said.

A number of African delegates attended this year’s MSC Stakeholder Council meeting. They participated in a meeting of the Developing World Working Group and a special parallel session on regional certification initiatives for Africa.

The Developing World Working Group provides advice and guidance to the MSC on the challenges and solutions to overfishing in the developing world. The MSC is developing tools and mechanisms to support fisheries in developing countries to achieve the high standards required for MSC certification.

Fisheries leaders set their sights on a more sustainable future for African oceans (MSC Media Release)

New Chairman for MSC Developing World Working Group (MSC Media Release)


A tribute to Roy Bross

Roy Bross, Executive Secretary of SADSTIA and a friend to all who were involved in the South African fishing industry, has died in Cape Town at the age of 74.

True to his nature, Roy worked for SADSTIA right up until he took ill in late July.

A real individual, with an analytical mind and a quick wit, Roy will be deeply missed by the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry which he served unwaveringly for the past 31 years.

Roy was appointed as Secretary of SADSTIA in 1983, at a time when the South African hake fishery had been devastated by − in Roy’s own words −”predatory trawling by essentially lawless and under-regulated international fishing fleets.” He personally participated in a major effort by the trawler owners of the time to rehabilitate the South African hake stock. Classical corrective measures were introduced, including the declaration of an exclusive economic zone, the establishment of an annual total allowable catch and the distribution of quotas. In this way, the deep-sea trawling industry, with Roy as administrator and lobbyist, began to implement a sustainability program that was well ahead of its time.

But Roy’s involvement in the deep-sea trawling industry went well beyond matters of catches and quotas (although he had an exact record of both). For instance, it was Roy who fought doggedly for over a decade to ensure that the fishing industry became exempt from certain fuel taxes. He won this battle in 1999, to the benefit of the entire fishing industry, not just the deep-sea association for whom he worked. He was also responsible for ensuring that South African exporters were able to implement the requirements of a European Union regulation that might otherwise have sunk a R3,5 billion export industry. The regulation was implemented on 1 January 2010 and it is fair to say that, were it not for Roy (at the age of 70) working day and night, the hake industry might well have lost its most important trading partner.

Roy was an economist by training, having attended the University of Cape Town at the somewhat advanced age of 30, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Science. He was appointed as fisheries economist to the Fisheries Development Corporation in 1973. “Fishcor” was a quasi-government body that was tasked with developing South African fisheries. It made a valuable contribution by building fishing harbours and lending money to fledgling fishing businesses, Sea Harvest among them.

To begin with, Roy’s job was to conduct the economic investigations that lay the groundwork for fishing harbour construction, but his years with the Corporation exposed him to a wide range of fisheries issues – from public finance and administration to industrial processes and technology. And, as he would tell anyone who also showed an interest in fish and fishing, the industry quickly captured and harnessed his intellect and his energy; for the next four decades he remained interested, engaged and passionate about his job and the fishing industry as a whole.

Roy considered the fishing industry to be a unique economic activity, vulnerable to a host of market and resource uncertainties and he was fascinated by the high levels of risk and complexity that make fishing such a difficult sphere for economic analysis and understanding.

Anyone who knew Roy would know that he was a true economist – patient and precise and always eager to discuss and debate the latest trends and issues affecting the industry, be they political or biological. His knowledge of the industry was deep and profound.

And then there was his sense of humour: subtle and dry and always present. With a word or a turn of phrase, Roy could introduce a sense of the ridiculous into the most serious scientific discussion, or, with a pointed irony, indicate his disapproval for work that was late, incomplete or not up to scratch.

Roy was one of those rare individuals who spend their professional lives doing something that they love – and the Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association is fortunate to have been the focus of his intellect and loyalty for so many years. But through his work, Roy also touched many lives and he will be fondly remembered for his deep knowledge of fishing, his kindness towards those he worked with and, of course, his irrepressible wit.

Roy is survived by his wife, Sue, and his daughters, Sarah and Helen, who live in Canada and the UK, respectively.


Seabird conservation success story

A remarkable 99% reduction in the number of albatrosses that are accidentally injured and sometimes killed by trawlers proves that the fishing crews who work in South Africa’s deep-sea hake fishery are well trained in responsible fisheries practices and very serious about constantly improving the environmental performance of the fishery, says SADSTIA executive secretary, Roy Bross.

Bross was commenting on the paper “Significant reductions in mortality of threatened seabirds in a South African trawl fishery” which was published recently in the respected scientific journal Animal Conservation. The paper has attracted attention in both conservation and fisheries circles because it shows that over seven years, interactions between seabirds and trawl gear have dropped dramatically as a result of the deep-sea trawling industry’s consistent use of bird scaring devices.

“It is particularly pleasing to note that the black browed albatross, the most iconic of the seabirds in South African trawling assemblages, has been downlisted to “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because it has been observed to be getting on nicely,” says Bross.

Survey data from the Falkland Islands have shown that the population of black browed albatross is increasing on the islands. (The black browed albatrosses that are seen on the trawl grounds off South Africa are known to originate in the Falkland Islands.)

Bird scaring devices, which are called “tori lines” (tori being the word for “bird” in Japan), have been routinely deployed by South African deep-sea trawlers since 2006.

The lines consist of a length of rope from which six to ten brightly coloured streamers are hung. The streamers flutter in the wind and are effective at scaring birds away from the stern of a fishing vessel where they may be accidentally killed or injured when they collide with trawl warps – the strong braided wire ropes used to tow the trawl net.

“The bird scaring lines are seemingly easy to deploy, but to be effective they have to be individually set up for each vessel, or class of vessel, and they must be correctly deployed immediately after the trawl doors have been lowered to the water,” says Bross.

“It takes commitment and dedication from skippers and fishing crews to make sure the tori lines are flown correctly from the very start of every single trawl.”

According to Bross, the results published in the Animal Conservation paper demonstrate that members of SADSTIA are willing to work with scientists and conservationists to ensure that trawling activities cause as little harm as possible. He emphasises that education is a vital part of such partnerships because the solutions demand constant care, attention to detail and dedication from the trawling community; it is very important that fishing crews understand the reasons for what they are doing.

Originally, longline and gillnet fisheries were seen to pose threats to seabirds. Foraging albatrosses and petrels often become hooked or snarled in lines when they flock around fishing boats, searching for scraps or, more frequently, “stealing” bait. Gannets and other diving seabirds are frequently enmeshed in static nets. Prior to 2014, nobody had thought that trawling posed a seabird mortality problem, but in that year, Birdlife International discovered seabird kills were indeed a problem in trawl fisheries off the Falkland Islands – and by implication in other Southern Hemisphere trawl fisheries too.

The South African hake trawl fishery was first certified as sustainable and properly managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in the same year as the Falkland discovery, and, as a condition of certification, SADSTIA was encouraged to investigate the nature and scale of seabird mortality.

WWF and Birdlife SA soon demonstrated that seabird interactions did occur in South African trawl fisheries. The high rate of seabird deaths surprised even the most experienced skippers and deckhands: it was difficult to see the birds flying into the warps and hardly any injured or lifeless birds were retrieved by fishers; it was only when the occurrences were captured on film that scientists and the trawling industry, understood the degree to which trawl fisheries were also contributing to the global decline of seabird – and especially albatross – populations.

“With the help of WWF-SA, Birdlife SA and the Albatross Task Force, we moved quickly to resolve this problem,” says Bross, “and in 2006 the deployment of bird scaring devices became mandatory in the deep-sea trawl fishery.”

Today, exacting tori line regulations form a major part of a suite of management interventions that include a standard for coating trawl cables with lubricants; a requirement to trim cable joins, a ban on releasing offal during winching and the development of individual bird management plans.

The bird scaring lines have been so successful in South Africa that the authors of the Animal Conservation paper are advocating their use in other parts of the world:

“Bird-scaring lines (are a) trivial expense per vessel for a measure that reduces fatal interactions with threatened seabirds so effectively. Our results provide a strong case for the mandatory adoption of bird-scaring lines in trawl fisheries with high densities of scavenging birds,” say authors, Bronwyn Maree and Ross Wanless of Birdlife South Africa, Tracey Fairweather of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, and international contributors, Ben Sullivan and Oliver Yates.

One of the reasons why scientists are so concerned about seabirds is that albatrosses and petrels migrate over vast distances, often circumnavigating the globe. Each bird has a chance of dying in one of a number of different fishing regions globally, making it all the more difficult to get a good grip on mitigation. Another reason is that albatrosses are long-lived birds that don’t breed prolifically, and not until they are at least seven years old. It is very important to ensure that they have a chance to reproduce as many times as possible and that their lives are not artificially shortened by careless fishing practices.

Albatross deaths down by 99% in local trawl fishery (Media release from Birdlife South Africa, 29 April 2014)

Maree, B.A.; Wanless, R.; Fairweather, T.P.; Sullivan, B.J. & Yates, O. 2014. Significant reductions in mortality of threatened seabirds in a South African trawl fishery.  Animal Conservation. ISSN 1367-9430. London, United Kingdom. The Zoological Society of London.

Read more about SADSTIA and seabirds.

MSC re-certification process enters its final phase

The Public Comment Draft Report for the South African Hake Trawl Fishery has been published for a 30-day period of comment on the MSC website. It is also available here and the MSC’s official announcement about the report is available here.

If you have any comments on the accuracy of the report or the outcome of the assessment by Intertek Fisheries Certification, please contact the Lead Assessor, Jim Andrews by 1700 GMT on 9 March 2015. Any comments should be supported by objective evidence. They will be documented and taken into account in the final decision on certification of the fishery.

Intertek Fisheries Certification notifies identified stakeholders directly through email. If you know of anyone who may be interested in this notification please forward it to them and notify Intertek so that they may be added to the list of stakeholders. It should be noted that because email is not a foolproof way of transmitting notifications, stakeholders are advised to subscribe to the free notification service provided by the MSC here.

A guide to stakeholder input to fishery assessments has been produced by the MSC. It is available for download here.

If you have any queries about this notice, please contact:

Dr Jim Andrews
Intertek Fisheries Certification Auditor
Intertek Fisheries Certification
C/O 58 Park Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 2DJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 845-880-2540
Mobile: +44 (0) 7908-225865
Fax: +44 (0) 1332-675-020
Skype: jimwandrews


Stunning images open a window on the deep-sea world

Stunning images of the fishes and marine life living on or close to the seabed nearly half a kilometer under the sea, have been gathered by University of Cape Town (UCT) scientists working with a submersible camera off the west coast of South Africa.

The scientists collected the images in the first of a series of surveys that will test the environmental impact of hake trawling in South Africa.

Their investigations are the result of a three-year collaboration between the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA); UCT; the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Chief scientist Colin Attwood of UCT, led a team of scientists and technical specialists that included post doctoral student, Charles von der Meden (SAEON); doctoral students, Karen Tunley and Steward Norman of UCT; Driaan Pretorius, ship manager of Viking Fishing and electronics technician, Xolani Methu (DAFF).

“The water was perfectly clear at a depth of 360 to 510 m,” said Attwood, adding that the remarkable images of hake, jacopever, skates and an unusual type of “spiny eel” were probably the first of their kind ever taken in South Africa.

To capture the images, the scientists deployed a submersible Ski-Monkey camera mounted on a steel sled. The camera was towed behind the research vessel Ellen Kuzwayo at carefully plotted positions. At each deployment, the camera captured 10 minutes of still photographs and 10 minutes of video footage of the seabed and the organisms living on or just above it.

A Van Veen grab was used to collect samples of the benthic macro-fauna (invertebrates like worms, crustaceans and bivalves that live on or in the sediments).

From March this year, hake trawlers will no longer trawl in the experimental block where the photographs, video images and sediment samples were taken. The 6 x 15 nautical mile block is part of the trawl grounds known as Karbonkel, situated near the edge of the continental shelf off the Northern Cape town of Port Nolloth.

“The intention is to repeat the survey in subsequent years so that we can determine whether there is a recovery in benthic life,” said Attwood.

“With cooperation from SADSTIA-affiliated trawlers, the closure should provide an excellent test of the ability of the trawl grounds to recover. The surveys will increase our understanding of the biodiversity in this environment, and the effects of depth and trawling–related disturbance.”

The trawling industry is enthusiastically supporting the experiment, with the chairman of SADSTIA, Tim Reddell, saying it is vitally important for the industry to better understand the impact that fishing has on the environment.

“The more information we have, the easier it is for SADSTIA to consistently improve the environmental footprint of the fishery,” said Reddell.

“This experiment is just one of the projects that SADSTIA has initiated over the past ten years in an effort to meet and exceed the exacting standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The South African deep-sea trawl fishery was the first hake fishery in the world to be certified by the MSC as a sustainable and well managed fishery. It has retained this prestigious endorsement ever since.

Camera to capture the impacts of trawling

A team of UCT scientists equipped with a state-of-the-art underwater camera, is currently working in deep water near Port Nolloth to test the impact that trawling may have on typically trawled seabed.

The team, headed by UCT associate professor, Colin Attwood, and accompanied by an engineer from the fishing industry, is conducting its experiments using the South African research vessel, Ellen Kuzwayo as a platform. Photographs and video footage are being gathered near the edge of the continental shelf at a depth of approximately 480m using a newly acquired Ski-Monkey submersible camera. A benthic grab is being deployed to collect samples of sedimental biota (infauna).

The voyage of the Ellen Kuzwayo forms part of a three-year collaboration between the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA); the University of Cape Town (UCT); the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Its goal is to obtain a scientific understanding of the environmental impact of hake trawling in South Africa.

“Naturally, we know that trawl gear impacts the seabed,” says Roy Bross, Secretary of SADSTIA, “but we need to uncover more about the extent and consequences of impacts depending on the nature of the sea bottom.”

“In South Africa, hake trawling occurs almost entirely on soft, muddy, sandy or gravelly sediments and even though the size and weight of trawl gear is strictly regulated it is important to document the effects.”

The three-year experiment will allow scientists to compare photographs and footage of trawled and untrawled zones, and assess the characteristics of the seabed in both areas. In preparation for the voyage of the Ellen Kuzwayo, the trawling industry closed a small part of the trawling grounds known as Karbonkel for a period of a year.

“The experiment will allow us to get a better understanding of a specific trawled marine ecosystem and to assess the rehabilitation rate for fallow ground on typical trawl footprint,” says Bross.

Gaining better insight into the impacts of trawling will enable SADSTIA to improve its environmental performance. In 2004, the Association was among the first in the world to successfully apply for certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and it has retained this prestigious endorsement ever since. The industry body has also initiated projects to reduce interactions between seabirds and fishing gear, limit the industry’s environmental footprint and instituted new rules to better control the retained catch of monk and kingklip caught in bottom trawling operations.

“This seabed research is part of our environmental responsibility and an action that contributes to the retention of MSC certification,” said Bross.

Five-yearly MSC re-assessment to begin

A second re-assessment of the South African hake trawl fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was initiated in January.

The re-assessment is expected to take 11 months and it is likely that the outcome will be announced in the first quarter of 2015.

SADSTIA is the first hake client to have secured certification from the MSC, although some hake fisheries are presently engaged in the certification process.

The MSC certified the South African hake trawl fishery as sustainable and properly managed in 2004, and again in 2009. The organisation is the wild seafood certification body with the highest standard.

Under the current Fisheries Assessment Methodology annual audits take place through the entire five-year certification. A fishery wishing to continue with the process must then seek re-certification and undergo a full re-assessment.

The second re-assessment will evaluate the fishery for compliance with the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing. If the fishery meets these Principles and Criteria – as it has since 2004 – originating products then receive the privilege of continuing to display the prestigious MSC eco-label on packaging.

SADSTIA has appointed Intertek Fisheries Certification (IFC) to conduct the re-assessment of the hake fishery and Intertek has proposed a timeline for the assessment process.

Click here to view the announcement by Intertek Fisheries Certification.

Click here to view the proposed timetable for the assessment process.

Click here to find out more about the current certification of the South African hake trawl fishery by the MSC.