Beneath the waters off the western coast of South Africa, an epic struggle for survival is ongoing by one of South Africa’s most iconic marine species, the West Coast Rock Lobster (Jasus lalandii). This species, prized for its flavourful meat and relative ease of catching, is the subject of rampant, illegal fishing that is threatening the species’ very survival and the fishers who depend on it. The team at WWF-SASSI is doing all it can to bring attention to the issue and work with stakeholders to turn the tide for the lobsters. WWF-SASSI released a draft red-listing for WCRL in 2016 because the resource is sitting precariously close to collapse.
As one of South Africa’s oldest and most important commercial fisheries, the WCRL fishery provides direct employment to an estimated 4 100 people and has an annual turnover of around R530 million. But, with stock levels currently sitting at 2.5% of their historical size, largely as a result of overfishing and increasing levels of illegal harvesting, there has been growing concern from all sides that the resource is facing a complete collapse unless we can change its current trajectory.
Against this backdrop, WWF South Africa (WWF-SA), the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and stakeholders have been collaborating on a Fisheries Conservation Project (FCP) for the WCRL fishery. The FCP aims to move the fishery back towards healthier stock levels and create the improvements needed to support a SASSI green listing in years to come.