SMME focus

Human resources, with heart

Legacy iLifa assisted Nalitha Fishing to institute an internship programme. The six young South Africans who benefited from the programme in its first year are (left to right): Antonio Arendse, Lwando Sontshalaba, Chanté Benson, Mzukisi Nogwaxa, Andisiwe Mangweni and Johane Mabuza. 

Human resources, with heart

Newly established Human Resources (HR) consultancy, Legacy iLifa, has worked with a small rights holder in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery to provide valuable workplace experience for six young South Africans.

Shortly after its establishment in late 2019, Legacy iLifa Consulting began working with Nalitha Fishing, a young fishing company based in Hout Bay with interests in the hake deep-sea trawl, hake longline, tuna pole and west coast rock lobster fisheries.

Legacy iLifa’s task was to help Nalitha Fishing to comply with HR legislation by developing and submitting an employment equity and workplace skills plan; assist the company to attract and hire professional talent; implement training and coaching programmes; and advise on broad-based black economic empowerment legislation and regulations.

The opportunity to work with Nalitha Fishing on a full suite of HR tasks was a great opportunity, says Nomaxabiso Teyise, managing director and principal consultant in Legacy iLifa:

“Nalitha Fishing Group was our first client, which was great because sometimes as an entrepreneur you know your skills, you know your craft, but you don’t necessarily know how to start a business, so the fact that I had my first client was really great.”

Legacy iLifa was able to help Nalitha put in place basic HR requirements like contracts, payment structures and proper remuneration, but the partnership between the two young companies progressed to the establishment of a 12-month formal learnership/internship programme that assisted six young South Africans to gain vital workplace training and experience.

The interns were drawn from all over South Africa and have a variety of qualifications, from financial administration to operations management and human resources.

“They got a learning opportunity, on-the-job experience, and some of them are going to be offered permanent jobs,” explains Teyise.

“What I really like about the partnership with Nalitha Fishing is that it is a business with heart. We’re doing business but we’re also making a very positive impact in communities and we’re giving people a hand up.”

Even in the face of the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, Legacy iLifa has developed and grown, attracting business from companies across the full spectrum of the economy.  Whereas the company offers a wide range of HR services, what is most appealing to managing director Teyise is the opportunity to work with companies on transforming the economy and the country.

“The reason my company is called Legacy iLifa is that we as a country come from a legacy of exclusion and it’s had a generational impact – young people are still suffering from what happened in the past. My company has been set up to shift the narrative and create a different legacy, making sure that people are included, that they have dignity and can look after themselves,” she explains.

Teyise believes the fishing industry presents huge opportunity for South Africa.

“There are many companies like Nalitha Fishing that are opening doors for people to get into the value chain – not necessarily just in fishing itself – and if those companies that are doing the fishing are thriving, and you’ve got progressive leaders that are really interested in creating opportunities for others, then the sector becomes dynamic and vibrant and it can really accommodate a lot more within the value chain,” she says.



SMME focus

J&K Recycling provides a vital waste removal service

For the past six years, Cornaphia Serabele and his team of helpers have collected plastic, paper and cardboard from Selecta Sea Products, a fish processing factory located in the Philippi industrial area outside Cape Town.

J&K Recycling visits the factory premises three times per week. With agile hands and keen eyes, the recycling team quickly sorts through the waste generated by the plant, separating materials that can be recycled – especially plastic and cardboard – from general waste. By doing so, J&K diverts large quantities of solid waste away from Cape Town’s landfill sites and into recycling plants.

Owner and manager of J&K Recycling, Cornaphia Serabele, says that acquiring Selecta Sea Products as a client, was a turning point in his business.

“Selecta was not my first customer, but it was the biggest one,” he says.

In relating how he secured the business of Selecta Sea Products, Serabele emphasises the importance of “keeping your eyes open” for business opportunities.

“One day I passed Selecta and I saw a lot of waste outside, because the bins were outside the factory,” he relates. “I saw the plastic and the boxes lying there and I asked the security if I could talk to one of the managers. They agreed that I could take the waste away.”

Initially, Serabele was not paid for his services – he earned money from the sale of recyclable materials. But after a year, the relationship between the two companies was formalized and today J&K Recycling invoices for the regular removal of waste from the factory premises, while continuing to earn money from the sale of recyclables.

Since J&K Recycling began its partnership with Selecta Sea Products, the recycler has taken on more and bigger clients and registered as a recycling company with the City of Cape Town. At the same time, the company has grown significantly. Today, J&K Recycling employs nine people and operates a fleet of three vehicles.

J&J Recycling operates in all weathers, providing a vital service that keeps businesses and the environment clean, and waste materials out of landfill sites. Its work helps to reduce energy used in the production of virgin materials, and lower the harmful emissions, especially methane, that are generated by landfill sites.

Stay tuned for more stories within this series.

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.

Read the factsheet

Read the full report

World Fisheries Day 2020

Opening a window on an exciting new world

Michael Layman & Craig Hendricks

On Saturday 21 November, World Fisheries Day will be celebrated around the globe, highlighting the importance of an economic sector that produces around 80 million tons of food and employs at least 40 million people.

Two young Capetonians who have personal experience of the opportunities that exist in fishing are Craig Hendricks and Michel Layman. The two secured year-long internships with the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) in 2019 and now have permanent jobs at Sea Harvest’s Viking Fishing Division in Cape Town harbour.

Both are surprised and excited to be working in an industry they say is largely unknown, but offers extensive scope for personal and professional development.

“I never pictured myself working in this industry,” says Craig Hendricks, who holds a Master’s degree in Politics from the University of the Western Cape. During his internship, Hendricks worked as a researcher and administrator for the fisheries association, FishSA. As a result of his hard work and positive approach, he was offered a permanent position in the quality department at Sea Harvest.

“In the current economic climate, you appreciate any kind of work that comes your way,” says Hendricks candidly. “I never thought I’d be working in a quality department, learning all about food safety systems, the laboratory testing of fish and talking to customers all over the world, but my internship and my new job have given me an opportunity to learn all about the fishing industry, and to learn new skills.”

Michael Layman followed an entirely different path to securing a permanent job in the Fleet Operations department at Sea Harvest. He graduated with a Diploma in Business Management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and is currently working towards his Bachelor of Technology (B Tech) degree in Project Management. During his internship year, Michael was placed in the Fleet Operations office at Sea Harvest and this is where he has secured a permanent job. The Fleet Operations department is the interface between the skippers and crew who work on fishing vessels, and the administration and management of the Viking Fishing Division. It is a fast-paced environment and every day is filled with planning, logistics and lively interactions with sea-going workers.

“I never thought I would be working in this kind of operational environment and at first it was overwhelming, but I am putting my learning into practice because part of my job involves the procurement of goods and services for the fishing operation,” says Layman.

During their internships, both Hendricks and Layman attended a leadership course, and since taking up his new position with Sea Harvest, Hendricks has attended a course on food safety and he will start intensive training in the field of logistics in 2021. Layman is focused on achieving his B Tech degree, but he expects there will be training opportunities for him in the future.

“There are so many opportunities for you to grow in this industry,” he says. “You can either be content with where you are, or you can tap into these opportunities and learn more, expose yourself to the environment and go all the way up. The opportunities are there for you to take.”

The SADSTIA Graduate Internship Programme commenced in 2019 when the companies active in South Africa’s deep-sea trawling industry teamed up with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, the conservation organisation WWF-South Africa, and the Transport Education and Training Authority to provide an opportunity for 20 new graduates to work in the field of fisheries management, aquaculture, environmental science and related fields. Since the completion of the first year of the Programme, eight interns have found permanent employment in the fishing industry.

“Our members recognise that youth unemployment is one of the most serious challenges facing South Africa today and the SADSTIA Graduate Internship Programme provides us with a vehicle to address this problem,” says Fisokuhle Mbatha, SADSTIA research assistant and administrator of the Programme. “It provides graduates with valuable work experience and in some cases enables them to establish a career in the fishing industry.”

A first call for applications for a position in the 2021 internship programme was made on 20 October and a call targeted specifically at Master’s students in the fields of marine biology, oceanography, fisheries science, biological science, marine conservation, aquaculture, fisheries management and environmental law, was made on November 18 (Call for graduates to apply for the SADSTIA academic grant for 2021).


Call for graduates to apply for the SADSTIA academic grant in 2021

Closing date: 30 November 2020

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) represents the trawler owners and operators that catch, process and market Cape hake.

SADSTIA invites you to apply for the SADSTIA ACADEMIC GRANT FOR 2021

If you intend to do your Masters/MTech in 2021, or if you are currently enrolled in one of the fields below:

  • Marine Biology
  • Oceanography
  • Ichthyology/Fisheries science
  • Marine science/Ocean science
  • Biological Science
  • Marine conservation
  • Environmental science/Environmental management
  • Aquaculture
  • Fisheries management
  • Maritime law/Environmental law


  • Must intend studying towards a Masters/MTech qualification, by providing proof of registration OR acceptance for 2021 within one of the aforementioned fields of study.
  • Masters/MTech students that are ongoing with dissertations are also considered.
  • Must be a South African Citizen
  • Must be between the age of 18 and 34 years
  • Must be currently unemployed


Submissions must be done either online or via email: SADSTIA website or

Upload/Attach the following supporting documentation along with the completed Grant application form in a merged PDF file.

  1. ID document/passport (certified copy)
  2. Latest academic transcript (certified copy) only
  3. Proof of registration or proof of acceptance
  4. An abridged Curriculum Vitae (CV) of no more than 2 pages
  5. Letter of motivation (1 page) why SADSTIA should consider offering you the grant.
  6. Parents/Guardians payslips (Not older than 3 months) or affidavit if they are unemployed. Proof if you already have a bursary/scholarship.

Download graduate Application form

NB: Do not submit any additional documentation, other than those specified above.

Late applications will not be accepted.

For any queries, please contact Fisokuhle Mbatha: 021 425 2727 or

Online Graduate Application Form

  • Compulsory for equity purpose
  • Compulsory for equity purpose
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: pdf.

When allocating fishing rights, Government should learn from the errors of 2016

The 2016 allocation of rights to the hake inshore trawl fishery was a costly policy and administrative mistake that should not be repeated when rights are allocated to 12 other commercial fisheries in 2021.

This is the advice from the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) which has published the findings of an analysis of the allocation of rights to the hake inshore trawl fishery, an industrial fishery that targets hake and Agulhas sole on the Cape south coast. Since 2016, the allocation of rights to the hake inshore trawl fishery has been reviewed by the High Court no less than eight times, and 30% of rights in the fishery remain disputed and subject to an appeal process.

“The protracted rights allocation process has introduced considerable uncertainty into an already high-risk industry,” said Felix Ratheb, chairman of SADSTIA and chief executive of Sea Harvest. “The key finding of SADSTIA’s analysis is that the allocation of many rights of small value to a large number of new entrant companies has compromised the stability and competitiveness of the hake inshore trawl fishery. The economic and environmental impacts will be felt for years to come.”

The National Development Plan (NDP), compiled over a period of two years by the National Planning Commission, made two clear recommendations for the allocation of fishing rights to the industrial fisheries: allocate economically viable fishing rights and ensure that the allocation of rights maximises employment. The allocation of rights to the hake inshore trawl fishery in 2016 did not follow the recommendations of the NDP. The Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries (DEFF) dramatically increased the number of right holders in the fishery – from 16 to 37 – and reduced the share of the allowable catch allocated to established companies by 30%. This resulted in large losses for the companies with the investments and experience to add value to the catch and maximise employment. These companies are substantially transformed; in 2016 their average black ownership was estimated to be 82%. It is currently 85.6%.

SADSTIA’s analysis shows that the allocation of rights to the hake inshore trawl fishery achieved an increase of 3.5% in the black ownership of rights holders, but this was attained at considerable economic cost.

“One of the biggest problems with allocating rights to a large number of new entrants is that individual rights are very small. This means that new entrants are unlikely to secure the finance necessary to invest in a vessel, build factories or participate in the fishery in a meaningful way. Instead, they rent their quotas to established companies, pushing up the cost of raw material and compromising the business models of the processing factories,” explains Ratheb.

The loss of quota by the established companies, who own the processing facilities, drives up costs, affects the international competitiveness of the fishing industry and ultimately impacts on the number and quality of jobs it can support.

SADSTIA’s analysis suggests that if the DEFF had comprehensively evaluated Government’s success in transforming the hake inshore trawl fishery, and properly assessed the investments and jobs supported by the established companies, it might have re-evaluated its administrative decision to fundamentally restructure the fishery.

“This is why we are so supportive of the DEFF’s announcement that it will undertake a detailed socio-economic impact assessment study (SEIAS) of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery and 11 other fisheries to which rights will be allocated in 2021,” says Ratheb.

SADSTIA is hopeful that the SEIAS will be conducted by reputable economists and will accurately assess the state of transformation, and the depth of investment and job creation of the individual fisheries, but particularly the hake deep-sea trawl fishery which is by far South Africa’s most valuable fishery. An independent economic study conducted in 2018 found that the fishery generates annual sales of R4.5 billion and accounts for approximately 45% of the value of the commercial fisheries. It is the only fishery in Africa to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for sustainable, wild-caught seafood. MSC certification, and massive investments in fishing and processing assets, have enabled the hake deep-sea trawl fishery to achieve international success – 70% of the fishery’s catch is exported, earning valuable foreign exchange and corporate taxes for South Africa. The hake deep-sea trawl fishery sustains 7 300 direct jobs and an estimated 29 200 indirect jobs. Rights holders are collectively 66.6% black-owned and their contribution to the transformation of the fishing industry is broad-based.

“If the SEIAS is well done and those who are responsible for rights allocation gain a fundamental understanding of the unique characteristics of the fishery, the DEFF can avoid making the same mistakes it made with the hake inshore trawl fishery,” says Ratheb. “What is absolutely key going forward is that policy is formulated and aligned to the President’s priorities of preserving and creating jobs, encouraging investment and promoting inclusive growth. Decisions need to be based on facts, not hearsay, and they must ensure that progress in transformation and job creation are rewarded.”


What is it like to work in the fishing industry as a woman?

Statistics tell us that the hake deep-sea trawl fishery is male dominated – an estimated 40% of people working in the fishery are women. Does this matter? What does it mean for gender equality? Four women working in different roles in the fishery share their views and experiences.


Bianca Brophy

Bianca Brophy is general manager of Combined Fishing Enterprises, a family business started by her father and mother, Basil and Doreen Lucas, and her uncle Don Lucas. The company is active in the hake deep-sea trawl, hake longline and small pelagic fisheries.

Brophy is a trained teacher, but gave up the teaching profession when she was asked to contribute her skills to the family business. Since 2007, she has been intricately involved in the day-to-day running of Combined Fishing Enterprises and she says that learning the fishing business “from the ground up” has given her the knowledge and confidence to tackle whatever challenges come her way.

In an interview about her career and her experience in the fishing industry, Brophy was quick to direct attention away from herself, pointing to older women who began working in the fishing industry during the apartheid era, overcame considerable barriers and smoothed the way for the women who have come after them. She mentions Claudia Bowers, former commercial manager of Pioneer Fishing and Celeste Diest, chief executive of Impala Fishing, as two particularly inspiring women.

“I have a lot of respect for women who speak up,” says Brophy, admitting that it took time and a conscious effort to find her voice. She began by listening and asking questions, and gradually found the confidence to express her ideas and opinions, not only in her own company, but also at industry forums.

Brophy says that in the course of her career in the fishing industry she has met many gutsy women. She believes that women bring a level of compassion and empathy to a business environment and she would like to see more women working in fishing, particularly in technical or leadership roles.

“If we had more women skippers, more engineers, it would raise women’s expectations to a different level. If we could achieve that, I would be even prouder to be part of this industry,” she says.


Fisokuhle Mbatha

Fisokuhle Mbatha is a research assistant working for the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA). She holds a Master’s degree in applied marine science and has a special research interest in hake. Her recently published paper has advanced knowledge about the lifecycle of deep-water hake.

Mbatha is an observant person and during visits to the factories of SADSTIA member companies, she noticed very clearly defined gender roles: whereas women are by far the most numerous employees in the onshore processing plants, skilled jobs in the fields of engineering, maintenance and refrigeration are almost exclusively filled by men. Mbatha would like to see less clearly defined gender roles in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.

“Some of our members have opened up opportunies for women to work at sea and I believe other companies should be encouraged to do the same,” she says, advocating for companies to prioritise gender equality.

Mbatha is also aware of the fact that there are few women in leadership positions in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery and she says that this can make it difficult for women, especially young women, to make their voice heard. She describes how she arrived at SADSTIA from an academic institution and was initially hesitant to participate in meetings. Would it have been easier if there were more women in leadership positions? “Yes,” says Mbatha. Like Brophy, Mbatha has benefited from the encouragement and example of other women in the industry, but she has also had strong support from male colleagues.

Mbatha believes that training is the first step in creating opportunities for women and she is proud that SADSTIA is becoming a “game changer in skills development”. She is referring to the SADSTIA Graduate Internship Programme which has so far provided work experience, and in some cases permanent employment, for 20 young graduates in the fields of science, human resources and finance, among others. Mbatha has thrown her considerable energy into the Graduate Internship Programme and is determined to see it play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for young professionals in the fishing industry.

She has a powerful message for young women who aspire to work in the fishing industry:

“Don’t be discouraged that this industry is perceived to be male dominated,” she says, “we are the women who will make a change. It starts with positivity. Be inspired by the few visible women in the industry and consider yourselves fortunate that doors are open. It depends on us to develop careers in this industry.”


Nozipho Mkhabela

Nozipho Mkhabela is a relative newcomer to the fishing industry. She began her career in 2019 when she was appointed as an intern at the fishing division of I&J. Today she works in I&J’s Business Intelligence unit, contributing her skills as a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst.

Mkhabela studied Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She was trained in the use of GIS software, and when she joined I&J she got an opportunity to apply the skills she had previously used in the terrestrial environment, in the marine environment.

“My internship provided me with an opportunity to learn different things,” says Mkhabela. “I got to apply new tools. Even now, the work I do changes constantly and my mind is kept active.”

Mkhabela expresses admiration for the work done by women in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery’s expansive shore-based processing plants. In fact, the exposure she has had to I&J’s fishing and processing operations has been one of the highlights of her job so far.

“All the exposure has been very exciting,” she says, “when it comes to the work that we do on shore, the interactions we have with the sea men, all of that is totally new for me and personally I feel embraced and encouraged to shine at I&J.”

Asked whether there are any special qualities that women bring to the fishing environment, Mkhabela says she would be hard pressed to identify specific qualities, but she believes that when women and men work together, an ideal balance of skills and abilities is created. Consequently, she would like to see the equal representation of women and men in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.

Mkhabela has good advice for other young women who would like to build a career in the fishing industry. She says:

“I say ‘go for it’. Do all the preparation that’s needed and put your best foot forward. The idea that this is a male dominated industry, that shouldn’t phase anyone. It’s just stats, there’s nothing else to it! Once you are in the industry that you want to be in, you do your best and you should also keep your learning spirit alive.”


Jennifer Jeanes-Pleass

Jennifer Jeanes-Pleass is a shareholder and managing member in Pellsrus Historical Fishing Corporation, a company that holds quotas in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery and the hake longline fishery. Pellsrus Fishing was started by Jennifer’s late husband, Richard Pleass and seven other fishers from the Jeffries Bay and Humansdorp area, the heart of the squid fishing industry, in 1995.

Jeanes-Pleass’ introduction to the fishing industry was sudden and dramatic. She became a shareholder, and was nominated the managing member of Pellsrus Historical Fishing Corporation, after Richard passed away in 2014.

“While Richard was alive, I kept my eyes and ears open and was able to pick up a lot from him in that way, even though I didn’t work with him in the business,” she recalls, adding that taking on the role of managing member was difficult.

Jeanes-Pleass recognises that the mentorship and support of Combined Fishing’s Don Lucas was invaluable. He was willing to share his knowledge and help her find her feet in the fishing industry. To this day, Jeanes-Pleass works closely with Lucas; Pellsrus Historical Fishing Corporation and Combined Fishing Enterprises have pooled their quotas and bought an equal share in the trawler Harvest Kirstina.

Jeanes-Pleass is proud of the fact that Pellsrus Historical Fishing Corporation is 57% women-owned. She hopes to increase the company’s quotas in the forthcoming fishing rights allocation process, with the objective of eventually owning and operating a vessel in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery. She is positive about the experience of working in the fishing industry, saying that attitudes towards women have changed and are changing.

Fishing industry bids farewell to a giant

Nico Bacon, founder and former executive chairman of the Viking Fishing Group, which was sold to Sea Harvest in 2018, has died in Cape Town at the age of 89. True to character, the legendary fishing entrepreneur worked right up until three weeks ago when he fell ill with Covid-19.

Practical, down-to-earth and profoundly entrepreneurial, Bacon left his mark on virtually every industrial fishery in South Africa. His career spanned 52 years and over that period he worked closely with skippers and fishing crews to experiment with new gears or test the potential of underutilised resources. For example, in 1984 he worked with Spanish fishers to test a system for catching kingklip and hake by longline. Having failed with the Spanish single line system, he brought some fishers to South Africa from Portugal. They showed him how to use the double line system, the method of longlining that is still used in South Africa today to catch hake. Viking Fishing was also one of the first South African companies to successfully target horse mackerel, learning from the Polish fishers who pioneered the midwater trawl fishery in South Africa. To this day, Sea Harvest’s Viking Fishing Division is one of the few deep-sea trawling operations with the technology and expertise to employ a dual catch strategy, switching between the targeting of horse mackerel and the targeting of hake.

Bacon grew up in the coastal villages of Gordon’s Bay, Strand and Somerset West in the 1930s and ’40s. His parents owned Gordon’s Bay Fisheries and Bacon spent his early years in the company of small boat fishermen, learning to catch “silver fish” in False Bay. He told the story of how, at the age of eight, he was persuaded by a group of fishermen to go fishing in the late afternoon. When he got home after dark – with two kob in hand – he received a hiding from his traumatised parents who had no idea of his whereabouts and were sick with worry.

Bacon fished constantly while he attended the University of Cape Town, reading for a degree in mechanical engineering. He graduated with sore hands the day after the linefish boat that he worked on through the previous evening landed 600 geelbek. He recalled that he made enough money from that fishing trip to buy himself a blazer for his graduation ceremony.

At the age of 29, after a seven year stint as an engineer at the AECI explosives factory in Somerset West, Bacon took his first job in the fishing industry. He started working for A.P. du Preez who founded the Kaap Kunene Group (which later became Suiderland Fishing and is now Pioneer Fishing.) Although he had hoped to get a job as a manager in a fishmeal factory or a cannery, Du Preez made him shore skipper.

So successful was Bacon as shore skipper that after two years he was managing the nine boats that offloaded into Du Preez’s Da Gama factory in Hout Bay, plus another eight boats that offloaded into the other factory in Hout Bay – Sea Plant Products. And each year the three top pelagic catchers on the west coast were from the Da Gama fleet. When there was a fisherman short, Bacon used to go out on the boat himself.

Bacon joined I&J in 1968, at a time when the company’s antiquated steam trawlers were failing to compete against the massive Russian and Spanish factory trawlers that were fishing in South African waters at the time. He immediately embarked on a project to upgrade the company’s fleet. The first thing he did was to scuttle all 10 steamers. The first steamer he had to get rid of was called the George Irvin – the flagship of the I&J fleet, named after one of the founders of the company – but Bacon knew that the only way he could improve I&J’s catches was to modernise its vessels.

After catch rates improved in Cape Town, Bacon was appointed to the post of group fishing manager. His job was to manage I&J’s fishing operations in Walvis Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

In 1980, Bacon parted company with I&J, borrowed R30 000 and started Viking Fishing with one trawler, the Benguela Viking. He used his car as his office and he went to sea for 10 days per month. When he returned to shore, he would sell the vessel’s catch. This practical, “hands on” approach stood him in good stead throughout his career and earned him a notable reputation in the South African fishing industry. Skippers and managers spoke about him with great respect, and many executives admired him as one of the hardest working people in the fishing industry.

His entrepreneurial spirit was legendary and Viking Fishing was one of the first fishing companies in South Africa to invest and diversify into aquaculture, or fish farming. Viking Aquaculture established abalone farms at Buffeljags on the Cape south coast and Kleinzee in the far Northern Cape, trout farms in the Cape winelands region and oyster and mussel farms in Saldanha Bay. Most recently, the company has pioneered the farming of ocean trout in sea cages in Saldanha Bay.

In 2016, when government allocated long-term rights to the hake inshore and midwater trawl fisheries, Viking Fishing suffered massive cuts to its quotas. In a bid to secure the jobs and livelihoods of the company’s 1 500 employees, Bacon sold out to Sea Harvest. His practice of consistently investing Viking Fishing’s profits back into the business paid dividends for the company’s employees who, as members of the Viking Fishing Staff Share Trust, received generous pay-outs from the Sea Harvest transaction.

Throughout his career, Bacon played a leading role in the management of the fishing industry. He had deep respect for fisheries science and served on fisheries advisory committees in both Namibia and South Africa. He also served many terms on the executive committee of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association and as chairman of the Midwater Trawling Association.

Although Bacon will be remembered as a giant of the South African fishing industry, he also won accolades for the establishment of Org de Rac – one of the first truly organic wine farms in South Africa. The farm produces a wide range of wines for the local and international market and is particularly renowned for the quality of its Methode Cap Classique.

Bacon had a tremendous affinity for the sea, and the people who work on it. Colleagues and friends will miss him for his no-nonsense approach to business and will remember him as a man of his word. He is survived by his wife, Wanette and his sons Grant, Peter, Craig and Neil.

SADSTIA elects a new chairman

The South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) has elected Sea Harvest chief executive, Felix Ratheb, as chair of the Association.

Ratheb takes over from his Sea Harvest colleague, Terence Brown, who chaired the Association for the past three years.

Ratheb has more than 17 years of experience in the fishing industry. He joined Sea Harvest as a commercial manager in 2003, was promoted to group sales & marketing director in 2006, and group CEO in 2013. He has represented Sea Harvest at SADSTIA since 2013 and served as a trustee on the board of the Marine Stewardship Council from 2016 to 2019. He is also a board member and treasurer of the largest whitefish conference in the world, the Groundfish Forum, which is headquartered in Canada.

“I am excited to take up the chairmanship of SADSTIA,” said Ratheb. “The hake deep-sea trawl fishery is a South African success story – it is sustainable, highly transformed and makes a massive socio-economic contribution, especially in the coastal provinces. I am eager to represent the fishery and the interests of our members.”

SADSTIA is one of the most influential organisations in the local fishing industry owing to the fact that its 32 members generate approximately half of the value of South Africa’s fishery production. These companies catch, process and export a range of value-added hake products and also supply a competitive local market with fresh and frozen hake. Together, SADSTIA members directly employ an estimated 7 225 employees, while an additional 6 000 indirect jobs are created by the economic activity that the fishery generates.

Ratheb explains that the hake trawl fishery is currently being re-assessed for a fourth time by the Marine Stewardship Council, the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling program for sustainable, wild-caught fish. The fishery was first certified as sustainable by the MSC in 2004. Although the MSC standard that is being applied is more rigorous than the standard that has been applied over the past 16 years, SADSTIA is optimistic the fishery will be re-certified for a further five-year period early in 2021.

Other priorities for SADSTIA over the coming year will be working collaboratively with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on the fishery, with the goal of preserving jobs.

“This pandemic will have affected every one of our members, and company balance sheets will have been severely weakened. The industry needs to survive this because it is a large employer providing quality jobs in coastal towns, and it is a significant exporter,” said Ratheb.

Innocent Dwayi, employee and stakeholder relations manager at I&J, remains in the position of SADSTIA vice-chairman. He is also vice-chairman of the umbrella fisheries association FishSA.

Other members of the SADSTIA Executive Committee are Madoda Khumalo, strategic services executive at Sea Harvest, who chairs the SADSTIA Scientific Committee; Don Lucas, chief executive of Combined Fishing Enterprises; Jayesh Jaga, executive director responsible for the hake operations within Blue Continent Products (Oceana Group); and Terence Brown, operations director at Sea Harvest.

Johann Augustyn continues in his position as secretary of SADSTIA, taking responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Association. He is assisted by Fisokuhle Mbatha, SADSTIA research assistant.

SADSTIA was founded in 1974, originally with three members. It has played a central role in the growth and development of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery and the South African fishing industry in general.