Hake inshore trawl fishery conservation project

Experimental Threshold (ET) programme to co-manage 10 bycatch species

The development of  the ET Project FCP is temporarily on hold until there is agreement on a project workplan between rights holders in the sector.

The South African offshore and inshore trawl sectors nominally target hake (Merluccius capensis and Merluccius paradoxus) and Agulhas sole (Austroglossus pectoralis). The sectors are one of South Africa’s largest with the catch annual market value worth approximately $6 million USD. The inshore trawl sector receives approximately 6% of the hake total allowable catch (TAC) and the entirety of the sole TAC.  Due to a combination of none-selective fishing gear (bottom otter trawl) and the bio-diverse fishing grounds of the Agulhas banks on the southern coast of South Africa, the fishery catches on average 40% bycatch in addition to the targets (hake and sole). Although over 100 bycatch species may be found in the catches from the inshore trawl sector, approximately 10 bycatch species represent 95% of the catch together with the targets.

The inshore trawl sector, in conjunction with the larger offshore trawl sector, are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified for their hake products. A condition to certification to the trawl sectors is to improve the research and management of bycatch species. The proposed ET FCP is built on several years of collaborative work between industry, government (South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, “DAFF”), academic scientists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) and NGOs such as the MSC and WWF.

The ET FCP is underpinned by a By-catch Mitigation Management Programme that is centred around annual catch limits for 10 bycatch species. The industry body distributes these limits among rights holders annually pursuant to a formula developed by UCT scientists that considers each right holder’s target species quotas and historical performance of bycatch landings over a limited period. The industry body will facilitate within-season clearing or reconciling of catches among rights holders and encourage members to avoid exceeding limits. Should limits be exceeded, DAFF will take action to reduce further catches by restricting the entire fleet (rather than individual right holders). Action may include temporal or spatial closures of fishing grounds and/or roll-over provisions among other options. The system will be tested (and modified as required) during a pilot phase beginning in 2015. The intention is to fully implement the system at the start of the next round of Fishing Rights Allocations for the inshore trawl sector