Snoek

(Thyrsites atun)

Barracouta, Cape snoek, Kaapse snoek

Species is currently under revision for offshore trawl component.

1. What is it?

Snoek (Thyrsites atun) are relatively fast-growing, schooling fish found near the sea bottom and occasionally near the surface. They are a popular fish and found widely on local and international markets. Stock levels appear to be stable as there have been no significant changes in catch rates apart from natural variations. In South Africa, stock levels are considered to be fully fished and no overfishing is taking place.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Linefishing

Snoek are caught using the traditional rod-and-reel method of the linefish sector. Linefishing is a relatively selective fishing method which targets a large number of species many of which are reef-associated but also includes a few pelagic species. When targeting pelagic linefish species, like snoek, the linefishery is not likely to cause significant damage to overfished, vulnerable or ETP species, which are nearly all reef-associated. The reverse is true when targeting for reef-associated linefish species. The fishery has few discards and there are very few “non-target” species landed in the sector.

Offshore demersal trawl

Snoek are caught as bycatch within the within the offshore demersal trawl industry for hake (MSC certified) using trawl nets that are dragged along the seabed at depths typically ranging from 110 m to 800 m (known as “demersal trawl nets”). This type of trawling is known to damage the seabed; the extent and impact of damage remains unknown. Trawling is not a very selective fishing method and a number of other species are often caught in the nets (fish, sharks and rays). A success story in the fishery has been the implementation of effective seabird mitigation strategies developed in connection with the MSC-certification process. These strategies have resulted in a dramatic reduction in seabird-fishery interactions through the introduction of bird scaring lines and improved disposal of offal. Imported - bottom demersal trawl

Snoek are caught using bottom trawl nets. These nets are dragged near the sea floor at depths ranging from 100 m to 200 m. This type of fishing is known to cause damage to the surrounding habitats (e.g. biogenic habitats like bryozoans, mussels and sponges are especially susceptible to damage) and bycatch of many vulnerable species including birds, sharks and other fish species is an issue.

3. Where is it from?

Linefishing

Snoek are caught within the inshore zone along most of the South African coastline mainly from the Namibian border to Algoa Bay on small skiboats. Management for the sector is considered partly effective. In South Africa, this sector is principally managed through a total allowable effort (TAE) limitation and there are additional restrictions to protect overfished species such as bag (10 pp/pd) and minimum size (60 cm) limits for recreational fishers. There is some concern over the impact of the small-scale fishery rights allocation beyond the recommended TAE and the continuously growing recreational sector.

Offshore demersal trawl

Snoek 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 (MSC certified hake) in the form of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and permit limitations. There are some ecosystem-based management measures in place such as precautionary catch limits on monkfish and kingklip, tori lines to reduce sea bird interactions, and limited fishing areas (i.e. fishing within a “footprint” to limit seabed disturbance). There is however, little information on impacts to sensitive shark, skate and ray populations. 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.

Imported - bottom demersal trawl

Snoek is caught along the coast of New Zealand and imported to South Africa as Barracouta. Management considered partly effective through a total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) limit, no go zones for bottom trawling vessels and a no discard rule for targeted or bycatch snoek species. An issue within the industry is the lack of information regarding bycatch. Measures have been taken to improve observer coverage on all vessels in order to better assess the impacts of trawling on the environment and on other species.