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.