• The history of the hake fisheries

    The history of the hake fisheries

    The history of South Africa’s hake fisheries is remarkable because it demonstrates that it is possible for an industry to recover and thrive after a period of catastrophic resource depletion.

    Anonymous. 2011. Fishing for the future. Cape Town, South Africa. Irvin & Johnson Ltd.
    Payne, A.I.L & Punt, A. 1995. Biology and fisheries of South African Cape hakes (M. capensis and M. paradoxus). In J. Alheit & T.J. Pitcher, eds. 1995. Hake: Biology, fisheries and markets. London, England. Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0 412 57350 4.

  • Discovery and development

    Discovery and development

    Historians identify 1897 as the year in which trawling began in South Africa. This was the year in which the trawler Pieter Faure arrived in Cape Town and began to undertake a survey of the marine resources of the Cape, reporting to the administrators of the colony about currents, temperatures, the nature of the seabed and a number of other subjects.
    In the early years of the fishery, Agulhas sole (Austroglossus pectoralis) and West Coast sole (A. microlepis) were targeted by fishing trawlers and it took the First World War and its associated food shortages to prompt an interest hake fishing. By the end of the war, annual catches averaged approximately 1 000 tons.
    The fishery started to expand in the 1930s and by the end of the decade the fleet had grown to 26 vessels. Although the Second World War inhibited the growth of the fishery, by the early 1950s, the annual catch of hake was in the region of 50 000 tons; by 1955, following the introduction of echo-sounders and on-board freezing facilities, catches swelled to 115 000 tons.

  • The invasion by foreign fleets

    The invasion by foreign fleets

    In 1961, large Soviet trawlers first began to fish in South African waters. Knowledge of the southeast Atlantic’s vast resources began to spread and distant-water fishing fleets from Japan, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and East Germany began to fish for hake in South African waters. Catches escalated but the catch rates of local trawlers dropped substantially. Although South African fishing companies preferred to catch large hake, the Soviet and Eastern European vessels were less discerning and in some years, huge catches of small fish were taken. Total catches peaked in 1972 when catches of hake taken from South African and Namibian waters totalled 1.1 million tons. The South African catch alone amounted to 300 000 tons (double what it is today). However, falling catch rates indicated that the resource could not sustain that level of exploitation and in 1972 the International Commission for the Southeast Atlantic Fisheries (ICSEAF) was established in an attempt to control what had then become an international fishery. Various measures, such as minimum mesh size, international inspections and allocations to member countries, were implemented by ICSEAF, but catch rates continued to fall.

  • UNCLOS and the quota system

    UNCLOS and the quota system

    In November 1977, the Law of the Sea treaty (formerly known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOSS III) was negotiated, allowing nations to introduce a number of provisions, the most significant of which was the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), within which a coastal nation has sole exploitation rights of all natural resources. South Africa declared its 200 mile EEZ in November 1977, resulting in the removal of all foreign fishing effort. The scene was set for a recovery of the hake stocks off South Africa.
    A system of individual company quotas was introduced in 1979 and a method of allocating them was based on, among other things, level of investment, historical and current performance and trawling capacity. A total of six quotas were allocated to deep-sea trawling companies, but the two largest companies were together allocated 85% of the TAC. A period of stock rebuilding followed.
    In 1988, the Sea Fishery Act was passed, establishing a Quota Board with the task of awarding annual quotas across all commercial fisheries. Over the nine years of its existence, the Quota Board redistributed 15% of the hake TAC and raised the number of participants in the deep-sea trawl fishery from 17 to 57.

  • The democratic era

    The democratic era

    Almost immediately after the 1994 elections, fishing companies anticipated a link between government’s policy of black economic empowerment and fishing rights. After 18 months of consultation, government released the 1997 White Paper on Marine Fisheries Policy which called for a fundamental restructuring of the South African fishing industry. A year later, in May 1998, the Marine Living Resources Act was passed.
    In 2000, the hake longline and handline fisheries were legitimized, providing government with a means to significantly broaden participation in the hake fishery, while protecting jobs and investment in the established trawl fishery.
    Government’s new quota regime was implemented haphazardly until 2001 when it issued medium-term, four-year rights across the commercial fisheries. Then, in 2006, the so-called “Kleinschmidt allocation” introduced a systematic, formal and rigorous process for allocating fishing rights. With the allocation of long-term rights in the longline and handline fisheries, 235 new right-holders were incorporated into the hake fishery.