Offshore Trawl Bycatch Fishery Conservation Project
A Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) between the South African Deep-Sea Trawl Industry Association (SADSTIA) and the WWF-SA was launched in April 2016 with the aim of addressing the impacts that the offshore demersal hake trawl fishery has on key by-catch species.
The offshore hake trawl sector is the largest sector of the South African hake fishery and receives approximately 83% of the hake Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The sector catches predominantly deep-water hake (Merluccius paradoxus), which comprises more than 80% of the fleet’s catch, but also targets shallow-water hake (Merluccius capensis). The fleet itself consists of approximately 27 fresh fish trawlers with an average length of 45m and an average tonnage of 600 tons as well as 26 freezer trawlers ranging in length from 30m to 90m and a tonnage from 300 tons to 2 900 tons. While not the largest fishery in terms of tonnage, the hake fishery is the most valuable of South Africa’s marine fisheries, providing the basis for some 30 000 jobs and an annual landed value in excess of R5.2 billion.
The offshore hake trawl sector, in conjunction with the smaller inshore hake trawl sector, were certified as sustainable for their hake products by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2004, they were subsequently re-certified in 2010 and again in 2015. A condition to the initial certification to the trawl sectors is to improve the research and management of bycatch species.
The offshore hake trawl sector mainly operates using otter trawls at depths between 110m and 800m on the West and South coasts of South Africa. Fishing activity occurs predominantly on soft sandy substrates and the two most important bycatch species are kingklip (Genypterus capensis) and monkfish (Lophius vomerinus). To prevent the escalation of fishing effort directed at these two high value species, precautionary catch limits were introduced. The sector also catches significant quantities of angelfish (Brama brama), Cape dory (Zeus capensis), gurnard (Chelidonichthys capensis), horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis), jacopever (Helicolenus dactylopterus), octopus (Octopus vulgaris), panga (Pterogymnus laniarus), ribbonfish (Lepidopus caudatus), snoek (Thyrsites atun) and various skate species.
The FCP was developed to improve the management of bycatch species and support the planned work activities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Demersal Scientific Working Group. It’s workplan is based on a report prepared for the Responsible Fisheries Alliance in March 2015 by Jessica Greenstone. The report recommended that the fishery should substantially improve the WWF-SASSI status for several species by focusing on the monitoring of catches of non-target species, quantifying discards and recording catches of endangered, threatened, protected, overfished and vulnerable species (collectively referred to as ETP species).
The FCP contains 8 separate action items that the fishery or the government regulator (DAFF) is responsible to undertake. The FCP is anticipated to run over a period of three years. Key goals for the FCP are the following: improve data collection and analysis of key bycatch species (or “Non-Target Species”), develop an initiative to monitor the Non-Target Species applying co-management principles, compile a guiding document that lays out the major Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) objectives of the fishery, compile a report on the social and economic impacts of the fishery, and develop a robust traceability system for the Non-Target Species. For further information on the FCP and for a schedule of the participating vessels, please see the SADSTIA website.