New five-year certification for SA’s most sustainable fishery

Hake products derived from the South African trawl fishery for hake have been certified by the MSC since 2004

After an exacting 12-month re-assessment, the South African hake trawl fishery has been certified “sustainable” by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for a fourth five-year period.

The MSC is an independent non-profit organisation that sets a standard for sustainable fishing and uses an ecolabel to recognise and reward fisheries that meet the standard. The MSC standard is rigorous and takes into account the entire fishery and the ecosystem on which it depends.

“The South African hake trawl fishery was the first hake fishery in the world to be certified by the MSC,” said Felix Ratheb, chairman of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) and chief executive of Sea Harvest. “The fact that the South African hake trawl fishery has retained this prestigious certification for 16 years speaks to an enduring partnership between industry and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, the industry regulator, and academic institutions like the University of Cape Town.”

Sue Middleton, acting deputy director general in the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) commented:

“The DEFF’s Fisheries Management branch is one of the stakeholders involved in the re-certification of South Africa’s deep-water hake fishery by the MSC. The branch is proud to support this certification that promotes sustainable fishing practices in our fishery, including ecolabelling and protecting our ocean’s habitats.”

Approximately 67% of hake caught by the 32 members of SADSTIA is exported and MSC certification is vital to the international competitiveness of the fishery.

“In northern European countries like Germany, Holland and Sweden, as well as in Australia, the United States and the UK, there is a high degree of consumer awareness of seafood sustainability. Customers in these countries demand seafood products that can be traced to a sustainable source and this is exactly what our industry is able to deliver,” explained Ratheb. “MSC certification is vital to our export business and to the success of our fishery.”

The deep-sea trawling industry catches approximately 120 000 tons of fish per year and is by far South Africa’s most valuable fishery, generating sales of R4.5 billion per year and making a total annual socio-economic contribution of R6.7 billion. The industry employs approximately 7 300 South Africans in direct jobs and at least another 20 000 people in indirect jobs. Rights are held by 32 companies which range in size from large, vertically integrated firms to small- and medium-sized enterprises with diversified operations. Together these companies are 66.6% black-owned.

“Because it is sustainable and well-managed, the hake trawl fishery will continue to deliver these benefits to the people of South Africa for generations to come,” said Ratheb.

In certifying the South African hake trawl fishery, the MSC determined:

  • Hake stocks are well monitored and in a good state.
  • The fishery’s impact on the environment is managed effectively.
  • The fishery is managed under South African legislation which meets the requirements of international conventions.
  • The fishing fleet is limited in size and all vessels are subject to quotas and limits on their activities.

“Congratulations to the South African hake trawl fishery on their fourth successful certification against MSC’s framework for fisheries sustainability,” said Michael Marriott, MSC program manager for Africa, Middle East and South Asia. “The MSC Standard is regularly updated to reflect current scientific understanding on what it means to be sustainable, and for 16 years the South African hake trawl fishery has played a leading role in working with NGOs, scientists and government to ensure the long-term future of the hake resource. They continue to contribute to research and to improve their operations in their efforts to achieve best practice.”

The South African hake trawl fishery is one of 409 fisheries around the world that have been certified to the MSC’s sustainability standard, with another 89 undergoing assessment. Fisheries representing more than 15% of the world’s wild marine catch are engaged in the MSC certification programme and more than 18 000 MSC products are available across the globe.

Read more about the MSC certification
Read the MSC Public Certification Report
View the MSC Certificate of Conformity

MSC re-certification stalled by last minute objection

Hake products derived from the South African trawl fishery for hake have been certified by the MSC since 2004

A last-minute objection has stalled the anticipated re-certification of the South African hake trawl fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The re-certification was expected to be announced in November 2020, but an objection by the Wildlands Conservation Trust has set in motion a formal objection process, starting with the appointment of an independent adjudicator.

SADSTIA chairman, Felix Ratheb notes that the Wildlands Conservation Trust lodged “a last minute technical objection to the Final Draft Report and Determination published by Lloyd’s Register, the independent conformity assessment body (CAB), in which they surprisingly claim to have been unaware of the certification process and now belatedly seek to raise questions regarding largely immaterial aspects of the draft report and determination.”

He says that SADSTIA is confident in the process followed by the CAB, the substantive findings set out in the Final Draft Report and Determination and in the MSC fisheries certification processes.

“SADSTIA is participating fully in the MSC’s processes, and is confident that the objection will be properly and speedily dealt with without any impact on the fishery’s continued MSC certification, which has been held for some 16 years,” said Ratheb.

The MSC is an independent non-profit organisation that sets a standard for sustainable fishing and uses an ecolabel to recognise and reward fisheries that meet the standard. The MSC standard is rigorous and takes into account the entire fishery and the ecosystem on which it depends.

The South African trawl fishery for hake was the first hake fishery in the world to be certified by the MSC and until the certification of the Namibian hake fishery was announced in November 2020, the fishery was the only fishery in Africa to have achieved the MSC’s prestigious stamp of approval.

Hake deep-sea trawl fishery provides a lifeline to SMMEs

MCK Engineering is one of 1 041 SMMEs to benefit from an association with the hake deep-sea trawl fishery

A Saldanha Bay engineering company that employed five people in 2007, has grown into a multifaceted organisation with 72 employees thanks to its association with the hake deep-sea trawling industry. A second company has grown into one of the largest fully contained load transporters in Cape Town, with a fleet of over 90 trucks, semi-trailers and refrigerated vehicles.

The exponential growth and diversification of black-owned MCK Engineering and Moosa’s Enterprises is documented in the study “The impact of the hake deep sea trawl fishery on small, medium and micro enterprises”, which was released in Cape Town today. Conducted by independent economists Genesis Analytics, the study shows that the sustainability and international competitiveness of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery are vitally important to 1 041 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that provide goods and services to the industry.

“The National Development Plan identifies SMMEs as the most likely source for job creation in South Africa, and places particular emphasis on SMMEs that provide services to larger firms,” said Felix Ratheb, chairman of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA). “This is exactly what this study reveals. Our industry’s support of SMMEs is creating value and jobs, often in rural and semi-rural areas where economic opportunities are scarce.”

The hake deep-sea trawling industry spent a total of R624.4 million with SMMEs in 2019, with most of this spend directed towards businesses in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, including non-metropolitan areas like Gansbaai, Mossel Bay, Saldanha Bay, St Helena Bay and Veldrif.

A significant proportion (51%) of the R624.4 million the industry spends annually with SMMEs is directed at black- and female-owned businesses.

At 39%, engineering services account for the industry’s largest expenditure with SMMEs. The second largest category of products and services supplied by SMMEs is fish processing, which includes cold storage, the packaging of fish products and the provision of ingredients for the creation of value-added seafood. Mechanical services, including the repair, maintenance and refurbishment of fishing vessels and processing facilities, is another important category of goods and services.

Ratheb is hopeful that the information presented in the latest study by Genesis Analytics will contribute to the development of precise fishery-specific policies ahead of the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) that is scheduled to start this year. The Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries is preparing to allocate rights to 12 commercial fisheries in 2021. Included in the 12 fisheries is the hake deep-sea trawl fishery, which is by far South Africa’s most valuable fishery. It contributes an estimated R6.7 billion to the South African economy each year, and provides 7 300 direct jobs and an estimated 29 200 indirect jobs.

“What this study shows is that the stability and success of the hake deep-sea trawling industry is vitally important to SMMEs across the value chain. Securing the viability of SMMEs associated with the hake deep-sea trawl fishery is a better economic choice than restructuring the fishery to accommodate large numbers of new rights holders,” asserts Ratheb.

The impact of the hake deep sea trawl fishery on small, medium and micro enterprises” is the latest in a series of studies that have advised against the fragmentation of the hake deep-sea fishery in FRAP 2021. Fragmentation means taking substantial tonnage away from established companies in order to allocate it to many small new entrants. The studies have found that fragmentation will materially reduce the socio-economic contribution of the HDST industry for little or no gain in transformation. The hake deep-sea trawling industry is 66.6% black-owned and the top three companies active in the fishery are level one contributors to black economic empowerment.

“The policies that underlie FRAP 2021 need to be carefully formulated and aligned to the Government’s priorities of preserving and creating jobs, encouraging investment and promoting inclusive growth,” concludes Ratheb.

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