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Waves of change through our seafood industry

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Report coverDeveloping a sustainable seafood industry requires more than sustainable fishing, it is about addressing all parts of the supply chain. With its consumer, market and fisheries initiatives, WWF-SA has built a strong foundation for a future in which all stakeholders in the seafood industry understand their roles in conserving our marine resources.
A recently released report from WWF-SA highlights the progress made by nine South African retailers, suppliers and restaurants that are part of WWF-SASSI’s Retailer/Supplier Participation Scheme. Each of these participants made clear and time-bound commitments to sustainable seafood, and for six of the participating companies – I&J, John Dory’s, Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market, Woolworths and SPAR – their target dates set for reaching some of their goals came to term at the end of 2015. Their commitments are that at the set date, the retailer/supplier/restaurant will sell only Green-listed species, or species that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or under a Fisheries Improvement Project. While not all the commitments were met, these companies have made significant inroads into meeting their commitments and have now plotted a revised path to success. See what they accomplished to date here.

The report, ‘Waves of Change’, can be downloaded here.

Big strides for Kogelberg small-scale fisheries

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WWFSA_Kleinmond copyThe Kogelberg Small Scale Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) is a pilot project that aims to maximise socioeconomic benefits for the Kleinmond coastal community through market-based incentives, before addressing the environmental challenges facing the small-scale fishers. It is part of the WWF-SA Marine Programme’s approach to addressing the environmental challenges facing small-scale fisheries.

Improving catch data
Gathering and analysing reliable catch data is crucial to managing small-scale fisheries effectively. To improve the quantity and quality of the information being collected, the Integrated Catch Data Monitoring (IMS) project was developed. The project aims to upgrade the paper-based system to a web-based one. Currently, the monitors and fishers who work to keep track of this information for small-scale fisheries use paper and pens to record the data, so it is prone to inaccuracies and manipulation.
There are four monitors and three fishers in the Kleinmond area who are assisting with piloting this project, and since the west-coast rock lobster season opened in November 2015, progress has been steady. The monitors have found the electronic collation of data using tablets much better than keeping track on various paper documents. One of the monitors, Zalisidinga Humphrey Kondlo, explained, “If I had to choose between the paper work and the tablets for capturing of data, my best option would be the tablet. It makes life easier because there is no need to worry about losing paper work and supervisors having to come and pick up the documents on a regular basis.”
Progress has been exceptional with commercial fishers; they have seen smart-phones as the best option for capturing and monitoring data. They are able to capture what they see when they are at sea and to share pictures with other fishers.
“There have been a few changes or corrections that needed to be made, and both the fishers and the monitors are engaging positively with the project to ensure its smooth implementation”, said the programme manager Mr Mkhululi Silandela

Expanding markets
The Kleinmond Vrou Primary Cooperative had the privilege of meeting the General Manager of Pick n Pay Fish Shops, Mr Cliff van Diggelen, and the Financial Manager of Breco, Mr Neil Pascall, in December 2015. Through its good working relationship with Pick n Pay, WWF-SA managed to fulfil one of the goals of the Kleinmond Vrou Primary Cooperative by negotiating that both companies sell pickled and smoked mussels to local restaurants and large retail stores.
The Kleinmond Vrou Cooperative will buy fresh mussels from west coast mussel farms, with WWF-SA arranging the transportation of the mussels to Kleinmond. The cooperative will use a local facility, which was secured by WWF-SA, and Pick n Pay and Breco have agreed to assist with branding and making the mussels available in major Pick n Pay outlets around the Western Cape.

On a rocky road: the west coast rock lobster

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West coast rock lobster, Jasus lalandii

West coast rock lobster, Jasus lalandii

Rock lobsters live – and are fished – on both the east and west coasts of South Africa but are two distinct species,. Both species are slow-growing and live a long time. And until recently, they were orange-listed by WWF-SASSI. This year, SASSI re-assessed the rock lobster species harvested on the west coast (Jasus lalandii) and determined it to be worse off than when it was last assessed, in 2013. Now, unfortunately, the draft suggests it may be Red-listed but this has not been finalised. This change in the status of the west coast rock lobster came about due to the declines in the health of the population. Not only has the size of the entire west coast rock lobster population decreased compared to 2013 estimates, but in certain areas the species has reached or is close to the threshold level required to close all fishing. Other concerns flagged in 2013 still remain unresolved. Among these, issues with poaching and ecosystem impacts, and a lack of management activities to sufficiently address these concerns. WWF-SA and DAFF, through a joint partnership, have committed to developing a Fisheries Conservation Project (FCP) with key stakeholders to rebuild the stock and address the causes of the decline. The FCP workplan is an ambitous and holistic undertaking which will include new effort controls, programmes to address poaching, training and multi-stakeholder engagements.

Demersal Longline Fishery – change on the water!

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_0011492South Africa’s demersal (bottom) longline fishery is among our country’s most valuable fishing sectors. The three main seafood species it catches are two hakes – shallow-water and deep-water hake – and kingklip. Yet in 2010, when WWF-SASSI assessed the fishery for its SASSI List, they were concerned about its sustainability and all three species were placed on the Orange list, causing consumers to ‘think twice’ before buying it. Why? Incidental bycatch of other non-targeted species and endangered seabirds were among the main issues.
The longline fishery association (SAHLLA), in an effort to see this listing improve, approached WWF-SA, and in 2013, together they embarked on a Fishery Conservation Project with the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and with the assistance of CapMarine and BirdlifeSA. The first step was to put observers on fishing boats to gather information. They monitored and recorded seabirds interactions with the fishing gear, what and how much was caught as bycatch, how much of the catch was discarded and how much of the fishing gear (hooks) were lost at sea.
Based on the information that the observers collected, WWF-SA and its partners, trained crews in responsible fishing practices, got industry to use bird-scaring devices that were re-designed to improve their effectiveness, and researchers assessed the effects of the fishery on sensitive habitats.

When WWF-SASSI did a new assessment of the demersal longline fishery last year, in 2015, they found a noticeable improvement in the sustainability of the fishery; it was having less of an impact on seabirds and there had been a decrease in bycatch of shark and ray species. Even though kingklip is caught as bycatch by the fishery, and therefore was not the main focus of the conservation plan, it was still deemed more sustainable thanks to these efforts. This shows the positive impact that a Fishery Conservation Project can have on non-target species.
The result was that all three species, the two hakes and kingklip, were moved from the SASSI Orange list to the Green list.

Signs of a changing tide WWF-SASSI listings raise Green and Red flags!

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Seafood lovers across the country will be excited to hear that WWF-SA has announced a number of changes to its Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) listings as a result of updated assessments that were conducted in 2015. One of the major highlights is the Green-listing (Best Choice) of hake and kingklip caught by the demersal longline sector. This status upgrade will bring joy to sustainability-minded chefs and consumers across the country who have previously been asked by WWF SASSI to “Think Twice” about these species, which were previously languishing on SASSI’s Orange-list as a result of sustainability concerns associated with the fishery. While consumers could already buy green listed hake caught by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified trawl fishery, this is the first time since the SASSI list was initiated in 2004 that Green-listed kingklip from South Africa will now be available to consumers.

The improved status of these demersal longline species is the result of a collaborative Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) between WWF-SA, the South African Hake Longline Association (SAHLLA) and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) with assistance from CapMarine and BirdlifeSA. The FCP was also actively supported by SASSI partner retailers who were keen to see improvements in the SASSI listings of the species caught by the demersal longline sector. Through the FCP, which began in 2013, there have been significant improvements in both the understanding and management of the demersal longline sector’s ecosystem impacts. Improved monitoring of catches, the development of a seabird bycatch mitigation plan, and responsible fisheries training for fisher participants were other components of the FCP. “The Association benefited from the FCP in a variety of ways. Our members learnt about the importance of responsible fishery practices and received training on how to fish more sustainably. We are particularly pleased to make our premium quality longline caught hake and kingklip available to local consumers as SASSI green-listed products,” said the chair of SAHLLA Clyde Bodenham.

It is not just kingklip that is showing signs of improvement, as the updated assessments also saw two species caught in the traditional linefishery, Carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona) and Slinger (Chrysoblephus puniceus), move from the Orange list to the Green list. Carpenter stocks have experienced a rapid recovery in recent years and continue to improve, which has been attributed to the substantial decrease in allowed fishing effort by DAFF. This decrease in effort came into effect in the early 2000s after the collapse of many linefish stocks. While Slinger populations have also benefited from the decrease in effort, there is also evidence that they have benefited from the implementation of no-take/limited access Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Further good news is that Hottentot (Pachymetopon blochii), Snoek (Thyrsites atun) and Yellowtail (Seriola lalandii) caught in the commercial linefishery remain on the Green list with positive indications of stock status.

These positive shifts prove that it is possible to improve depleted fisheries through committed stakeholders collaborating on the implementation of effective fisheries management. It also goes to show that “the WWF-SASSI programme is working and that the efforts of responsible seafood consumers and committed retailers and suppliers are helping to drive positive change on the water” says Pavs Pillay, manager for the WWF – SASSI programme. “It is results like this that show how effective collaboration can lead to truly win-win outcomes”, she added.

First time WWF-SASSI assessments of white mussel (Donax serra) and Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) hand collected in KwaZulu-Natal resulted in a Green listing and East Coast rock lobster fished in the Eastern Cape only (Panuliru homarus) improves its prior Orange-listing to a Green-listing. The positive outcomes of these assessments reflect the limited impact of these selective fishing methods on the environment. However, Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) caught along our South Coast have received an Orange listing reflecting some concerns surrounding its stock status.

Despite these improvements, not all of the news is good and the updated assessments also highlight some of the major sustainability concerns facing the fishing industry. Geelbek (Atractoscion aequidens) and Silver kob (Argyrosomus inodorus) move from the Orange-list to the Red-list as their stock levels have declined to very low levels despite the effort limitations in the traditional linefishery. Fishing pressure continues to be too high for these species, both of which are caught in multiple fishing sectors such as the commercial linefishery, inshore trawl, recreational fishery and gill net fishery. Another cause for concern is the downgrade from the Green list to Orange list for horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis) caught in the midwater trawl fishery, which was downgraded due to uncertainty regarding its stock status and concerns around the management of the fishery. Abalone (Haliotis midae) has also shifted from the Orange list to the Red list due to declining stock levels primarily driven by poaching, highlighting the urgent need to address this scourge by DAFF and fisheries stakeholders. While the West Coast Rock Lobster assessment is still in the process of being updated, this species is also facing a potential downgrade from the Orange list to the Red list due to similar concerns around illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

“While the politics and science behind fisheries management is often complicated and confusing, the SASSI assessment process has proved a very effective way of providing objective and easy to understand information to consumers and retailers wanting to make responsible seafood choices.” says John Duncan, Senior Manager of WWF-SA’s Marine Programme. “SASSI embodies the concept of co-management, in which management responsibilities are shared with all resource users, with each given specific rights and responsibilities relating to information and decision-making” he adds.

New WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Chefs for 2015

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2015 Trailblazer chefs with Oscar the seal

Seven South African chefs were announced as ‘Trailblazers’ in the 2015 WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Awards, held at The Table Bay Hotel, on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront on Monday, 30th November 2015.


The seven awarded chefs are:

Chef Peter Pankhurst – Savoy Cabbage Restaurant

Chef Greg Coleman – East Head Café, Knysna

Chef Michelle Theron – Pierneef à La Motte

Chef Jocelyn Myers-Adams – Table Bay Hotel

Chef Hylton Espey – Equus at Cavalli Wine Estate

Chef Sias Ndabambi – Harbour House Restaurant

Chef Jonathan Japha – Black Sheep Restaurant

Building on the phenomenal success of SASSI’s “Green, Orange, Red” guide amongst the South African public, the SASSI Trailblazer Awards recognise and celebrate chefs who are actively championing sustainable seafood practices in their restaurants.

Pavitray Pillay, SASSI Programme Manager at WWF-SA, commented, “Our partnerships with chefs are inspired by a love of seafood and a shared commitment to help restore our overexploited seafood species. The chefs we are recognising have gone the extra mile in advocating the sustainability message.”

A previously awarded Trailblazer, and now Mentor, Chef Brad Ball of Peddlars & Co. in Constantia, Cape Town, added; “Chefs serve as the gatekeepers for the food and hospitality industry and therefore play a critical role in leading market forces and influencing popular taste. The reality is that chefs who support and promote ocean-friendly seafood can help ensure that there are fish to catch and enjoy tomorrow. My role is to do this, and to make up-and-coming chefs aware of what’s at stake.”

Clare Mack, of Spill Communications, and the awards organiser, said, “We believe that the SASSI Trailblazer Awards is increasingly helping to raise awareness and guide more consumers to make sustainable seafood choices. It’s gratifying to see, in the third year of these awards, that many restaurants are adopting sustainable practices in seafood, without any intervention or prompting. Sustainability is now mainstream, it has really caught on.”

The criteria on which the restaurants and chefs were assessed were:

The restaurant’s seafood sustainability policy;

The effectiveness of their communication of their seafood sustainability practices to their customers, employees and suppliers;

Their level of engagement in communicating their seafood sustainability practices to a wider audience (e.g. via social media, TV appearances, etc.);

The ‘Trailblazer factor’ i.e. those chefs and restaurants that are going the extra mile in promoting and supporting seafood sustainability.


The SASSI Media Award for 2015 was won by Daisy Jones, a journalist, for her cookery book, Star Fish, published by Quivertree Press. Daisy’s cookbook is a collection of recipes using only green listed seafood.


To find out more information on sustainable seafood choices visit

Sustainable partnerships make for sustainable business

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Businesses with the foresight to recognise that the longevity of their businesses is underpinned by a sustainable supply of fish should be actively engaged in the protection of these resources. It is with this rationale that the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) was established in 2009.

The RFA is a partnership between major fishing corporates, I&J, Oceana, Pioneer Fishing, Sea Harvest and Viking Fishing, and environmental NGOs, WWF-SA and BirdLife South Africa. The partnership is premised on the need to inform and promote responsible fishing practices within the South African fisheries sector. In lieu of the impacts of overfishing and other unsustainable marine uses, the RFA seeks to harness the influence of these leading brands to galvanise the fishing sector and drive positive change. Whilst a NGO-corporate partnership of this nature is not unique to South Africa, using this model to address environmental concerns in the fishing sector is a novel approach.

In order to achieve this vision of a responsible fishing industry, since its initiation, the RFA members have invested over R 3 million in support of several projects informing ecosystems-based management to better understand and mitigate the impacts of harmful fishing practices. Some of the most notable projects include supporting the work championed by BirdLife South Africa and the deep sea trawl industry on a series of projects resulting in a 90% reduction in seabird mortalities, including a remarkable 99% reduction in the deaths of the many majestic albatross species. This success story is the key focus of the WWF-SASSI #SASSIstories campaign in October. The campaign enables consumers to share this success story whilst providing them with the opportunity to share their own sustainable seafood stories.

The RFA has also supported research on another iconic species, the African penguin. This research is focused on populations on the south and west coasts to better understand the impact of fishing activities on these endangered species. Furthermore, the RFA has helped to initiate an important collaboration between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the South East Coast Inshore Fishing Association (SECIFA) to develop and trial an improved bycatch management plan which considers a broader range of bycatch species landed in the fishery. Perhaps one of the most important RFA contributions has been the training of more than 1100 skippers, crew, observers, compliance officers and law enforcement officials with the skills to better comprehend and contribute toward ecosystems-based management. The training course has catalysed a greater appreciation for marine life among those that operate at the ‘coal face’ of the ocean. Coupled with these conservation gains, the Alliance has also played a critical role in fostering the co-management of fisheries through collaborative efforts between government and the fishing industry.

Despite these successes, like any start-up, the RFA still faces a number of challenges. There is clearly significant potential for an organisation such as the RFA to effect large scale change but there are limitations both in terms of funding available and the extent to which the Alliance is willing and able to use its voice to lobby for change within government or the fishing industry. Going forward, it will be important for the Alliance to develop a more prominent public presence on topical issues that undermine responsible fisheries. The Alliance’s ability to better address competitive barriers will also be key to its future success. It is now well understood that environmental sustainability is one of the areas that businesses are willing to collaborate around, however, with so many different companies and interests involved, setting up effective pre-competitive collaborations such as the RFA remains a challenging task.

Looking ahead, the RFA now seeks to focus on interventions that will benefit the broader fishing sector to address the challenges identified. Lobbying for evidence-based decision making, ensuring a robust marine legislative framework, promoting the application of ecosystems-based management and safeguarding sustainable marine uses from unfavourable practices have been identified as the key focus areas. Projects will be elected which contribute towards these areas of work.

Whether it is to leverage off of the demand for sustainable seafood from increasingly aware consumers or for the protection of marine resources, it is clear that sustainability is central to the success of corporate fishing companies. By forming collaborative partnerships such as that of the RFA, the fishing sector will continue to build resilient ecosystems and reliable fish stocks and, in doing so, secure business success in years to come.



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The FishforLife programme is a national umbrella project set to launch in upcoming months. The project works with members of the recreational fishing community to gather information about their catches – even the “one that got away” to a database used to study the state of South Africa’s marine life.

FishforLife is aimed at improving the knowledge base for the management of our recreational fishery resources, raising awareness about the status of key species and the value of MPAs and improving recreational fishing practices. The project seeks to draw existing initiatives together and develop a national programme for new and existing ventures that contribute to the project aims. Developed as a collaboration between WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) and research institutions, University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes University and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), it is the first project of its kind to be undertaken at a national scale in South Africa.

An important component of FishforLife is the citizen science web-based platform, where, through the sharing of user-generated ‘catch’ data, FishforLife aims to capture a wealth of information from marine and estuarine fishers across the country with the goal of contributing to ecosystem health by informing appropriate management of linefish resources. This online platform will also provide independent recreational fishery databases to angling associations and research institutions.

“The website will be an easily accessible portal through which data can be entered and interesting and current information on fish conservation status, angling good practice and other news can be disseminated to participants,” says SANBI Marine Programme Manager, Kerry Sink, who conceptualised the FishforLife platform.

Angling is popular among every socio-economic class, age group, race group and gender, with an estimated 2.5 million active participants. It is also an important economic activity as it supports retail, tourism and service industries across the country. For many it provides a crucial way of connecting with our mighty ocean. Yet, due to South Africa’s extensive coastline and the dispersed nature of the fishery, recreational catches have not been effectively monitored or addressed, nor accorded the priority that it should.

The future of recreational angling depends, above everything else, on healthy marine ecosystems and strong fish populations.

John Duncan, Marine Programme Manager of WWF-SA believes that recreational fishers and ocean enthusiasts have an important role to play in the future of South Africa’s nearshore fish stocks. He describes FishforLife as, “An exciting way for citizen scientists to contribute to the wellbeing of these species”.

Funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, FishforLife will be an online portal to increase public understanding and appreciation of marine biodiversity while supporting responsible angling practices and conservation efforts.

FishforLife is not just a one way flow of data. Apart from contributing to a national database on the state of fish resources, the website will be an information portal to empower recreational anglers. It will be a source for disseminating best practice information to promote improved angler practices and reduced fish mortality. The project will also raise awareness about threatened marine species and strive to catalyse an appreciation for the value of MPAs in protecting important and vulnerable species.

Retailer/Supplier Scheme Update

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2015 is drawing to a close and many of the Participants in the Retailer / Supplier Participation Scheme are reaching their target dates for their sustainable seafood commitments. These include sourcing seafood from origins which are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified for wild capture fisheries or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified for aquaculture species; on the WWF-SASSI Green-list, or involved in a credible Improvement Project. An Improvement Project means that the source fishery or farm is not yet sustainable, however are implementing an action plan to become more sustainable in their practices. These are the fisheries and farms that require continuous support from the market in order to achieve their sustainable objectives. Ultimately, the fisheries and farms that are in an Improvement Project would end up either certified as sustainable or on the WWF-SASSI Green-List.

WWF-SASSI realises that for some key species it is not currently possible to bring an entire sector under improvement, therefore it has developed Procurement Strategies specifically for tuna, salmon, prawns and the key South African “Linefish” species. These have been published on the WWF-SASSI website under the work with fisheries. These Procurement Strategies support the implementation of best available practices within the relevant production sector. The Participant will adopt these specific strategies to ensure that, regardless of the broader sector practices, their own suppliers are implementing best available practices.

Support your seafood retailers / suppliers in providing the market incentive for fisheries and farms that are improving their practices.