Ribbonfish

(Lepidopus caudatus)

Buttersnoek, Scabbardfish

1. What is it?

Ribbonfish (Lepidopus caudatus ) are slow-growing, long lived fish that form large schools. They are widely distributed around South Africa are often caught as bycatch in the offshore trawl fishery. A recent replacement yield analysis indicates that the stock is not overfished or being overfished.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Ribbonfish are caught as bycatch within the within the offshore demersal trawl industry for hake using trawl nets that are dragged along the seabed at depths typically ranging from 110 m to 800 m (known as “demersal trawl nets”). The fishery gear consists of trawl nets that are dragged along the seabed at depths typically ranging from 110 m to 800 m. This type of trawling is known to damage the seabed; and research is ongoing to determine the extent of the impact and recovery potential in South African waters. Trawling is not a selective fishing method and a number of other species are often caught in the nets (fish, sharks and rays). Substantial effort has been made to reduce seabird deaths through the use of tori lines and s research is underway to understand the impacts on key bycatch species.

3. Where is it from?

Ribbonfish are caught as bycatch on the continental shelf edge and upper slope along the West Coast from the Namibian border southwards and on the South Coast primarily around the Agulhas Bank. Management is mainly focused on the target species (hake) in the form of Total Allowable Catch (TAC), effort limitation and various permit conditions. There are some ecosystem-based management measures already in place such as precautionary catch limits on monkfish and kingklip and limited fishing areas. The ongoing Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) aims to improve the management of the main bycatch species as well as address any potential impacts on sharks, rays and other sensitive marine species.