East Coast Sole

(Austroglossus pectoralis)

Sole, Ooskus tongvis, Ooskus-tongvis

1. What is it?

East Coast sole (Austroglossus pectoralis) are endemic, fast growing, and bottom dwelling species found on sandy or silty bottoms at depths shallower than 120m. Stock status is uncertain with worrying indications such as sharp declines in CPUE and very low catches. Precautionary measures have been applied to the sole-targeted fishing in the form of effort restrictions.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

East Coast sole is targeted alongside MSC certified shallow-water hake (Merluccius capensis) within the inshore trawl fishery. The fishery gear consists of trawl nets that are dragged along the seabed at depths in the area from the coast to the 110m isobath or to 20 nautical miles from the coast, whichever is the greater distance. Demersal trawling is known to damage the seabed; the extent and impact of this damage remains unknown. 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 research is underway to better manage the principle bycatch stocks through a co-management pilot programme.

3. Where is it from?

East Coast sole are caught between Cape Agulhas and the Great Kei River at depths shallower that 110 m. Management is considered to be largely effective. Management is mainly directed at the target species hake (MSC certified) and sole in the form of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and permit limitations. There is a fishery conservation project (FCP) presently underway seeking to test a co-management approach that would bring under management 10 non-target species in the sector. Additional ecological concerns are little information on impacts to sensitive shark, skates and ray populations as well as impacts to the seabed. Efforts are underway to improve the scientific observer coverage at sea for this sector to better understand ecosystem impacts.