Court sets aside experimental fishing permit for horse mackerel

Fishing industry associations and companies active in South Africa’s deep-sea and midwater trawl fisheries were successful in their challenge of an experimental fishing permit for horse mackerel granted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) under controversial circumstances.

The permit was allocated to Global Pact Trading Online 3 (Pty) Ltd on 15 December 2015. It was issued outside the formal rights allocation process currently underway and allowed for the harvesting of 8 000 tons of horse mackerel worth an estimated R120 million.

SADSTIA, the South African Midwater Trawling Association and 19 fishing companies that hold rights in the horse mackerel fishery challenged the legality of the experimental permit, appealing to the Cape High Court to review and set it aside. Their challenge was also supported by WWF and the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). DAFF conceded the industry review and the matter was settled by an agreed court order granted on the 25 October 2016, with a provision for the State to pay legal costs.

“The industry welcomes the fact that the DAFF has conceded the review and, in doing so, has adhered to considered scientific advice around the current status of the resource,” said Johann Augustyn, secretary of the two industry associations.

DAFF had argued that the allocation of the experimental permit sought to determine more precisely the exact size, distribution and value of the South African horse mackerel fishery, and whether South African consumers could benefit from horse mackerel which is mostly exported to other African countries. However, the fishing industry and conservation organisations were alarmed by the fact that the 8 000 ton allocation added 20% to the annual total allowable catch and was not accommodated by the scientific models used to manage the fishery.

“An additional catch of 8 000 tons, or exceeding the recommended number of fishing days by the formal industry could have posed a very serious risk to the horse mackerel stock and it is clear that the experimental permit would have rendered no practical or scientific benefits,” said Augustyn.

“Looking to the future this matter should serve as an example to both industry and DAFF that meaningful consultation is essential, particularly when decisions could have a detrimental effect on the sustainable management of South Africa’s valuable marine resources.”

Augustyn emphasised that the two industry associations are committed to the sound management of South Africa’s fisheries resources and he expressed the hope that the conclusion of the matter with an agreed court order would result in a closer and more transparent working relationship with DAFF.

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.

Farewell to Henk de Beer, the fisherman’s friend

Henk de Beer, Secretary of the South African Fishing Industry Employers Organisation (SAFIEO) and a long-standing advocate for the rights of sea-going workers in the deep sea trawling industry, has passed away in Cape Town aged 68.

A marine engineer by training, Henk’s career in fishing spanned several decades. He joined I&J in 1982 as a Training Manager and he made a point of going to sea and getting to know the skippers and crew on I&J trawlers. In this way he developed a deep and abiding respect for fishermen.

After his appointment as Human Resources Manager at I&J, Henk invested considerable time and energy in improving the working conditions of seagoing workers. His breakthrough came in 2001 with the establishment of a Bargaining Council for the South African fishing industry. This was followed in 2002 by the negotiation of a Collective Agreement which sets out basic conditions of employment for workers in the deep-sea and inshore trawl fisheries. Although Henk worked with his counterparts at other fishing companies to register the Bargaining Council with the Department of Labour, it would be true to say that it was he who provided the energy and passion to see the project through. His efforts were rewarded. Today seagoing workers in the deep sea and inshore trawl fisheries are protected by a unique labour relations framework that brings workers and employers together every year to negotiate around salaries and other benefits.

Henk was also active in the international arena, representing SAFIEO at the International Labour Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

In 2008, Henk reluctantly retired from I&J because of ill health. However, he retained his position as Chairman of the Bargaining Council, offering his skills to the fishing industry on a voluntary basis. Latterly he was appointed Secretary of SAFIEO.

Henk truly was a friend to South African fishermen. His knowledge and experience in human resources management and labour relations − which he gave freely to the trawling industry after his retirement from I&J − was invaluable and will be sorely missed.

The South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association expresses its heart felt condolences to Henk’s wife, Lynette, and the family.

World renowned fisheries scientist, Ray Hilborn, visits South Africa

Internationally renowned fisheries scientist, Professor Ray Hilborn, visited South Africa in August at the invitation of the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association.

Prof. Hilborn participated in two public events, a seminar entitled “Fisheries Myths” at the University of Cape Town, and a debate with local fisheries experts at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Resources and materials from both events are available here:

Please follow this link to a recording of Prof. Hilborn’s presentation.

Marine Protected Areas debate:

Film of the debate
Format of the debate
Presentation by Prof. Ray Hilborn
Presentation by Dr Jean Harris
Presentation by Prof. Colin Attwood
Presentation by Prof. Doug ButterworthFilm of the debate

I&J veteran is Skipper of the Month

Andrew Steenkamp, Skipper of the I&J fresh fish trawler, Freesia, is the latest SADSTIA skipper to be nominated as Skipper of the Month.

Andrew, who has worked for I&J for 40 years, was nominated by Johann Botha, Head of Trawling at I&J who says: “As a skipper Andrew is very professional, disciplined and environmentally conscious. He has the respect of his officers, crew and peers and really cares about I&J – the people, the brand, the vessels, everything.”

Read the full story here

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

Leon Henry is Skipper of the Month

Leon Henry, Skipper of the Viking Fishing trawler, Svein Jonsson, has appeared in Fishing Industry News as Skipper of the Month.

Leon was nominated by Tim Reddell, a director of Viking Fishing who says: “Leon has been with us since we acquired Hangberg Fishing in 2004. At that time already Leon displayed wonderful leadership qualities. Over time he has excelled, not only as a fisherman but also as a manager and leader. We are proud to have him as part of our senior management team.”

Read the full story here

Seabed experiment enters its third year

For the third year in a row, a team of scientists on board the South African research ship, Ellen Khuzwayo, is surveying an experimental area on the west coast fishing grounds of “Karbonkel”. The team is using a submersible camera and a benthic grab to closely examine the state of the seabed in three lanes that have been closed to fishing, and two lanes in between them where trawling is allowed.

The no-trawl lanes on Karbonkel have been closed to trawling since January 2014 as a result of a successful collaboration between SADSTIA, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and a number of universities and marine research agencies. These include the University of Cape Town (UCT), the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Deep-sea skippers have voluntarily avoided trawling in the three no-trawl lanes since the first survey of the seabed was conducted from the Ellen Khuzwayo in 2014. On that cruise, the seabed was closely filmed and photographed to record its state prior to the closure of the lanes to trawling. This year’s survey aims to examine the state of the same trawl lanes two years after their closure.

“We’re doing exactly what we did last year, we’re filming in each of the trawl lanes,” explained Chief Scientist, Colin Attwood, Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town prior to his departure on Ellen Khuzwayo. “There’s been no trawling in three of these lanes for two years and if there has been any recovery, we might pick it up – but it’s probably too soon.”

The seabed surveys will continue from Ellen Khuzwayo in 2017 and 2018 and it is hoped that after five years scientists will be able to describe at least some of the impacts that trawling has on the seabed.

SADSTIA Secretary, Johann Augustyn, says that in spite of the fact that about 25 percent of the world’s wild fish catch is caught with trawl gear, trawling gets a bad rap:

“Some people believe that trawling turns the seabed into a desert, but in South Africa, hake trawling occurs almost entirely on soft, muddy, sandy or gravelly sediments and the size and weight of trawl gear is strictly regulated. Even though we believe the negative impacts of trawling are often vastly exaggerated, SADSTIA and its members want to better understand the impacts that trawling has on the ecosystem – and the time it takes for the seabed to recover after it has been trawled,” he said.

In addition to video footage, the scientific team will analyse samples of mud and sand taken by a benthic grab all along the trawl lanes. This will help them to determine whether there are any changes in the macrofauna – small marine animals, including snails, worms, clams and other thumbnail-sized creatures that live and feed in the sediments on the sea floor.

The Ellen Khuzwayo is due to return to Cape Town on Tuesday 2 February and SADSTIA looks forward to releasing the latest set of photographs of deep-sea fish and other organisms as soon as they become available.