Monthly Archives: May 2016

Deep-sea trawl operators and WWF-SA team up to tackle fishy issues

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18 May 2016

The South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) has teamed up with conservation organisation, WWF South Africa (WWF-SA), to dramatically improve the management of at least 12 non-target fish species that are caught alongside hake in the offshore demersal trawl fishery.

SADSTIA’s members are the trawler owners and operators that deliver hake to fish and chip shops in every corner of South Africa; process and package fish fingers and other popular hake products for local supermarkets; and also supply a demanding international market with a range of value-added hake products.

For the next three years, SADSTIA will work with WWF-SA to implement the South African Offshore Trawl Bycatch Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) which will undertake research, implement practical actions, and generally improve the environmental performance and sustainability of the fishing activity of SADSTIA’s members, with a particular focus on non-target species management.

The non-target species are kingklip (Genypterus capensis), monkfish (Lophius vomerinus), 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 a number of skate species.

Although these species are collectively referred to as “non-target species” or “by-catch”, they are retained and processed by trawl operators and many of the lower value species, for example panga, snoek and angelfish, are valued as a source of good quality animal protein by lower income groups, particularly in the Western Cape.

In spite of their importance, the management of these species has traditionally taken a backseat to the Cape hakes (Merluccius paradoxus and M. capensis) that are the target of the deep-sea trawl fishery. The hakes are certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and these species are the only ones in Africa to have achieved this status.

Although the objective of the FCP is to fundamentally improve the management of the deep-sea trawl fishery as a whole, an intended spin-off for SADSTIA and its members is that certain species are anticipated to move off the Red-list or Orange-list of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) and towards a WWF-SASSI Green-listing.

As Tim Reddell, chairman of SADSTIA and director of Viking Fishing explains, improved WWF-SASSI ratings will substantially enhance the image of SADSTIA which has done so much to improve its environmental footprint.

“It is 12 years since the South African trawl fishery for hake was first certified as sustainable and well managed by the MSC and in that time the industry has more than lived up to the conditions of certification. This latest partnership with WWF-SA is another important step towards improving the environmental footprint of the fishery. We have to pay attention to these non-target species and improve their management,” he says.

The FCP is based on the findings of a Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) funded project aimed at understanding how best to improve the sustainability status of bycatch species in the hake offshore demersal trawl fishery. Jessica Greenstone, the WWF-SA Marine Science and Policy Lead who compiled the initial RFA report and played a key role in developing the FCP, noted, “This is an exciting step towards implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management in the deep-sea trawl sector. A number of fish species that are part and parcel of the fishery will finally be given the attention they deserve through at-sea monitoring of total catches and scientific assessments of their stock status. This project also highlights the synergies of industry, government and civic organisations working together to accomplish more than anyone could alone.”

While the FCP is underway, an “Improvement Icon” will be used by WWF-SASSI to indicate that an improvement project is underway for the main non-target species caught in the deep-sea trawl fishery. This will ensure that WWF-SASSI participating retailers, restaurants and suppliers who have made commitments to sustainable seafood and supporting fisheries under improvement can easily identify which species are part of this FCP. Consumers will also be able to easily access this information as the “Improvement Icon” will be used on the main WWF-SASSI public facing tools, including the WWF-SASSI Pocket Cards, Posters and Website.

SADSTIA will play a pivotal role in the FCP and to some extent, the success of the project will come down to the ability of skippers and fishing crews to adapt to new on-board routines and practices. For instance, the skippers and fishing crews who work on the 53 trawlers that are participating in the project (27 fresh fish vessels and 26 freezer vessels) will be required to change the way they log and report catches. The goal is to ensure there is better recording at drag level and that catches are sorted, accurately tallied and reported. Such information will help scientists at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to extract accurate catch data for each of seven priority non-target species and, in time, the top 12 non-target species landed by the fishery.

WWF-SA welcomes the willingness of the various stakeholders to collaborate on this FCP. John Duncan, WWF-SA Marine Programme Senior Manager, commented: “More often than not, there are practical solutions to many of the challenges facing our oceans, but we’re only going to solve them by sitting down and figuring them out together. This project is a great example of this and it’s exciting to see the shift in mindsets from all involved.”

Public support for Phakisa MPAs

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The South African government has recently proposed a network of 21 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) aimed at increasing ocean protection from only 0.4% of South Africa’s ocean territory to 5%. While this is still a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to what is needed to secure healthy oceans, it is a great step in the right direction and we need your help to let our decision-makers know that this is important to you.

With the growing human pressures from marine mining, energy supply, fishing, aquaculture and tourism, our oceans have never been in greater need of protection, the proposed MPAs are thus a critical aspect of ensuring protection for our marine ecosystems and their functioning in the face of these challenges. The mixture of offshore and inshore MPAs have been designed to protect vulnerable habitats and secure spawning grounds for various marine species, thereby helping to sustain fisheries and ensure long-term benefits important to food and job security.

The proposed MPA network includes charismatic marine ecosystems such as a deep fossilised yellow wood forest, a deep cold water coral reef standing up to 30m tall, undersea mountains and canyons each with unique biodiversity. It also provides protection to vulnerable island ecosystems which host more than half the world’s African Penguins. Click here for an overview of each of the proposed 21 MPAs, and what they are designed to protect.

At present, the proposed MPAs have been gazetted for public comment (download the government gazette here) and there is still an opportunity for members of the public to provide constructive comments on how these MPAs will impact on your lives, for better or for worse. The more information there is, the better the ultimate design of the MPAs and the more likely they are to achieve their purpose. If you would like to submit formal comments about the proposed MPAs, we have developed a set of commenting guidelines and tips to help you do this.If you only have 2 minutes but still want to let Government know that you are supportive of increasing our ocean’s protection, you can sign the online petition in support of MPAs here. Do it, your grandchildren will thank you.



21 new marine protected areas coming soon!

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MPA graphic copyThe South African Government through Operation Phakisa and in partnership with a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the marine sector has proposed declaring 21 new mid-ocean marine protected areas (MPA).

These new MPAs have set management objectives and have been designed to protect important marine habitats and ecosystems that will contribute to the longevity of South Africa’s oceans. Together, the new MPAs will increase the extent of South Africa’s MPA coverage from 0.5% to 5% of our oceans.

MPAs offer many benefits for nature and society. They protect critical habitats for the reproduction and growth of species and allow sensitive ocean areas to recover from the stresses of exploitation and extraction while contributing to healthy marine sites for sustainable and responsible eco-tourism.


To find out more, visit the websites for Operation Phakisa and the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Waves of change through our seafood industry

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Report coverDeveloping a sustainable seafood industry requires more than sustainable fishing, it is about addressing all parts of the supply chain. With its consumer, market and fisheries initiatives, WWF-SA has built a strong foundation for a future in which all stakeholders in the seafood industry understand their roles in conserving our marine resources.
A recently released report from WWF-SA highlights the progress made by nine South African retailers, suppliers and restaurants that are part of WWF-SASSI’s Retailer/Supplier Participation Scheme. Each of these participants made clear and time-bound commitments to sustainable seafood, and for six of the participating companies – I&J, John Dory’s, Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market, Woolworths and SPAR – their target dates set for reaching some of their goals came to term at the end of 2015. Their commitments are that at the set date, the retailer/supplier/restaurant will sell only Green-listed species, or species that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or under a Fisheries Improvement Project. While not all the commitments were met, these companies have made significant inroads into meeting their commitments and have now plotted a revised path to success. See what they accomplished to date here.

The report, ‘Waves of Change’, can be downloaded here.

Big strides for Kogelberg small-scale fisheries

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WWFSA_Kleinmond copyThe Kogelberg Small Scale Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) is a pilot project that aims to maximise socioeconomic benefits for the Kleinmond coastal community through market-based incentives, before addressing the environmental challenges facing the small-scale fishers. It is part of the WWF-SA Marine Programme’s approach to addressing the environmental challenges facing small-scale fisheries.

Improving catch data
Gathering and analysing reliable catch data is crucial to managing small-scale fisheries effectively. To improve the quantity and quality of the information being collected, the Integrated Catch Data Monitoring (IMS) project was developed. The project aims to upgrade the paper-based system to a web-based one. Currently, the monitors and fishers who work to keep track of this information for small-scale fisheries use paper and pens to record the data, so it is prone to inaccuracies and manipulation.
There are four monitors and three fishers in the Kleinmond area who are assisting with piloting this project, and since the west-coast rock lobster season opened in November 2015, progress has been steady. The monitors have found the electronic collation of data using tablets much better than keeping track on various paper documents. One of the monitors, Zalisidinga Humphrey Kondlo, explained, “If I had to choose between the paper work and the tablets for capturing of data, my best option would be the tablet. It makes life easier because there is no need to worry about losing paper work and supervisors having to come and pick up the documents on a regular basis.”
Progress has been exceptional with commercial fishers; they have seen smart-phones as the best option for capturing and monitoring data. They are able to capture what they see when they are at sea and to share pictures with other fishers.
“There have been a few changes or corrections that needed to be made, and both the fishers and the monitors are engaging positively with the project to ensure its smooth implementation”, said the programme manager Mr Mkhululi Silandela

Expanding markets
The Kleinmond Vrou Primary Cooperative had the privilege of meeting the General Manager of Pick n Pay Fish Shops, Mr Cliff van Diggelen, and the Financial Manager of Breco, Mr Neil Pascall, in December 2015. Through its good working relationship with Pick n Pay, WWF-SA managed to fulfil one of the goals of the Kleinmond Vrou Primary Cooperative by negotiating that both companies sell pickled and smoked mussels to local restaurants and large retail stores.
The Kleinmond Vrou Cooperative will buy fresh mussels from west coast mussel farms, with WWF-SA arranging the transportation of the mussels to Kleinmond. The cooperative will use a local facility, which was secured by WWF-SA, and Pick n Pay and Breco have agreed to assist with branding and making the mussels available in major Pick n Pay outlets around the Western Cape.

On a rocky road: the west coast rock lobster

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West coast rock lobster, Jasus lalandii

West coast rock lobster, Jasus lalandii

Rock lobsters live – and are fished – on both the east and west coasts of South Africa but are two distinct species,. Both species are slow-growing and live a long time. And until recently, they were orange-listed by WWF-SASSI. This year, SASSI re-assessed the rock lobster species harvested on the west coast (Jasus lalandii) and determined it to be worse off than when it was last assessed, in 2013. Now, unfortunately, the draft suggests it may be Red-listed but this has not been finalised. This change in the status of the west coast rock lobster came about due to the declines in the health of the population. Not only has the size of the entire west coast rock lobster population decreased compared to 2013 estimates, but in certain areas the species has reached or is close to the threshold level required to close all fishing. Other concerns flagged in 2013 still remain unresolved. Among these, issues with poaching and ecosystem impacts, and a lack of management activities to sufficiently address these concerns. WWF-SA and DAFF, through a joint partnership, have committed to developing a Fisheries Conservation Project (FCP) with key stakeholders to rebuild the stock and address the causes of the decline. The FCP workplan is an ambitous and holistic undertaking which will include new effort controls, programmes to address poaching, training and multi-stakeholder engagements.

Demersal Longline Fishery – change on the water!

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_0011492South Africa’s demersal (bottom) longline fishery is among our country’s most valuable fishing sectors. The three main seafood species it catches are two hakes – shallow-water and deep-water hake – and kingklip. Yet in 2010, when WWF-SASSI assessed the fishery for its SASSI List, they were concerned about its sustainability and all three species were placed on the Orange list, causing consumers to ‘think twice’ before buying it. Why? Incidental bycatch of other non-targeted species and endangered seabirds were among the main issues.
The longline fishery association (SAHLLA), in an effort to see this listing improve, approached WWF-SA, and in 2013, together they embarked on a Fishery Conservation Project with the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and with the assistance of CapMarine and BirdlifeSA. The first step was to put observers on fishing boats to gather information. They monitored and recorded seabirds interactions with the fishing gear, what and how much was caught as bycatch, how much of the catch was discarded and how much of the fishing gear (hooks) were lost at sea.
Based on the information that the observers collected, WWF-SA and its partners, trained crews in responsible fishing practices, got industry to use bird-scaring devices that were re-designed to improve their effectiveness, and researchers assessed the effects of the fishery on sensitive habitats.

When WWF-SASSI did a new assessment of the demersal longline fishery last year, in 2015, they found a noticeable improvement in the sustainability of the fishery; it was having less of an impact on seabirds and there had been a decrease in bycatch of shark and ray species. Even though kingklip is caught as bycatch by the fishery, and therefore was not the main focus of the conservation plan, it was still deemed more sustainable thanks to these efforts. This shows the positive impact that a Fishery Conservation Project can have on non-target species.
The result was that all three species, the two hakes and kingklip, were moved from the SASSI Orange list to the Green list.

Signs of a changing tide WWF-SASSI listings raise Green and Red flags!

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Seafood lovers across the country will be excited to hear that WWF-SA has announced a number of changes to its Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) listings as a result of updated assessments that were conducted in 2015. One of the major highlights is the Green-listing (Best Choice) of hake and kingklip caught by the demersal longline sector. This status upgrade will bring joy to sustainability-minded chefs and consumers across the country who have previously been asked by WWF SASSI to “Think Twice” about these species, which were previously languishing on SASSI’s Orange-list as a result of sustainability concerns associated with the fishery. While consumers could already buy green listed hake caught by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified trawl fishery, this is the first time since the SASSI list was initiated in 2004 that Green-listed kingklip from South Africa will now be available to consumers.

The improved status of these demersal longline species is the result of a collaborative Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) between WWF-SA, the South African Hake Longline Association (SAHLLA) and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) with assistance from CapMarine and BirdlifeSA. The FCP was also actively supported by SASSI partner retailers who were keen to see improvements in the SASSI listings of the species caught by the demersal longline sector. Through the FCP, which began in 2013, there have been significant improvements in both the understanding and management of the demersal longline sector’s ecosystem impacts. Improved monitoring of catches, the development of a seabird bycatch mitigation plan, and responsible fisheries training for fisher participants were other components of the FCP. “The Association benefited from the FCP in a variety of ways. Our members learnt about the importance of responsible fishery practices and received training on how to fish more sustainably. We are particularly pleased to make our premium quality longline caught hake and kingklip available to local consumers as SASSI green-listed products,” said the chair of SAHLLA Clyde Bodenham.

It is not just kingklip that is showing signs of improvement, as the updated assessments also saw two species caught in the traditional linefishery, Carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona) and Slinger (Chrysoblephus puniceus), move from the Orange list to the Green list. Carpenter stocks have experienced a rapid recovery in recent years and continue to improve, which has been attributed to the substantial decrease in allowed fishing effort by DAFF. This decrease in effort came into effect in the early 2000s after the collapse of many linefish stocks. While Slinger populations have also benefited from the decrease in effort, there is also evidence that they have benefited from the implementation of no-take/limited access Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Further good news is that Hottentot (Pachymetopon blochii), Snoek (Thyrsites atun) and Yellowtail (Seriola lalandii) caught in the commercial linefishery remain on the Green list with positive indications of stock status.

These positive shifts prove that it is possible to improve depleted fisheries through committed stakeholders collaborating on the implementation of effective fisheries management. It also goes to show that “the WWF-SASSI programme is working and that the efforts of responsible seafood consumers and committed retailers and suppliers are helping to drive positive change on the water” says Pavs Pillay, manager for the WWF – SASSI programme. “It is results like this that show how effective collaboration can lead to truly win-win outcomes”, she added.

First time WWF-SASSI assessments of white mussel (Donax serra) and Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) hand collected in KwaZulu-Natal resulted in a Green listing and East Coast rock lobster fished in the Eastern Cape only (Panuliru homarus) improves its prior Orange-listing to a Green-listing. The positive outcomes of these assessments reflect the limited impact of these selective fishing methods on the environment. However, Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) caught along our South Coast have received an Orange listing reflecting some concerns surrounding its stock status.

Despite these improvements, not all of the news is good and the updated assessments also highlight some of the major sustainability concerns facing the fishing industry. Geelbek (Atractoscion aequidens) and Silver kob (Argyrosomus inodorus) move from the Orange-list to the Red-list as their stock levels have declined to very low levels despite the effort limitations in the traditional linefishery. Fishing pressure continues to be too high for these species, both of which are caught in multiple fishing sectors such as the commercial linefishery, inshore trawl, recreational fishery and gill net fishery. Another cause for concern is the downgrade from the Green list to Orange list for horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis) caught in the midwater trawl fishery, which was downgraded due to uncertainty regarding its stock status and concerns around the management of the fishery. Abalone (Haliotis midae) has also shifted from the Orange list to the Red list due to declining stock levels primarily driven by poaching, highlighting the urgent need to address this scourge by DAFF and fisheries stakeholders. While the West Coast Rock Lobster assessment is still in the process of being updated, this species is also facing a potential downgrade from the Orange list to the Red list due to similar concerns around illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

“While the politics and science behind fisheries management is often complicated and confusing, the SASSI assessment process has proved a very effective way of providing objective and easy to understand information to consumers and retailers wanting to make responsible seafood choices.” says John Duncan, Senior Manager of WWF-SA’s Marine Programme. “SASSI embodies the concept of co-management, in which management responsibilities are shared with all resource users, with each given specific rights and responsibilities relating to information and decision-making” he adds.