Monthly Archives: September 2018

The science of SASSI

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Have you ever wondered how your seafood gets its SASSI colours? And just as you’ve gotten used to the pocket card, it changes! The WWF-SASSI list is an on-going process, with new species being assessed as required. The WWF-SASSI seafood database, assessments, and tools are regularly updated using the “Common Wild Capture Fishery Methodology”. In order to ensure that the methodology is up to date and globally applicable, it is updated from time to time by fisheries scientists, the North Sea Foundation and WWF fisheries experts from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. This methodology is considered best practice for consumer seafood guides and is transparent and consistent across borders.

The Common Wild Capture Fishery Methodology scores a species across three categories, namely (1) stock status, (2) ecological impacts of the fishery in which the species is caught, and (3) the management measures in place for that particular fishery. The aquaculture methodology scores a species across four categories, namely (1) regional production system (and siting), (2) feed, (3) ecological effects, and (4) management. Based on the score received, a species is listed on the WWF-SASSI seafood list as Red, which includes species from unsustainable populations as well as species that are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa; Orange, which includes species or fishing/farming methods that have associated ecological reasons for concern; or Green, which includes species that are the most sustainably managed.

WWF-SA undertakes significant efforts to develop the WWF-SASSI assessments through an objective, transparent and collaborative process, where assessments are desktop reviews of available scientific fisheries information. This provides broad-level guidance to consumers and retailers on a particular species per fishing method per country.

And there you have it, the science of the SASSI list!

Kirtanya, WWF-SASSI Project Officer & Monica Stassen, WWF-SASSI Assessment Coordinator

Updates to the SASSI list

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The last WWF-SASSI assessments have just been completed and reviewed, the SASSI app, website and FishMS has been updated with the following changes:

  • Monkfish caught in the offshore trawl fishery has changed from green to orange. All monkfish is therefore orange listed.
  • Natal knifejaw is a brand new species that is listed, as red.
  • Horse mackerel has been newly assessed for inshore trawl and is orange listed.
  • White-spotted smooth-hound shark is a new species that has been assessed for inshore trawl and is red listed. Common smooth hound shark remains red.
  • Cape hope squid has been newly assessed for inshore trawl which is orange, whilst jigging remains green.
  • Bigeye tuna caught by pelagic longline is red listed from the Atlantic Ocean and orange listed from the Indian Ocean (in South Africa only).
  • Jacopever has been newly assessed for the inshore trawl fishery and is red listed.
  • Herring caught via midwater trawl in the following fishing areas (FAO 27: *ICES VIa, ICES VIIb, ICES VIIc) has shifted from orange to green.
  • Sprat caught via midwater trawl in the following fishing areas (FAO 27: ICES 22-32) has moved from orange to green.

*ICES areas stand for International Council for Exploration for Seas who assign codes to various fishing regions which enables tracking of fish stocks and management of these.

 Kirtanya, WWF-SASSI Project Officer & Monica Stassen, WWF-SASSI Assessment Coordinator

Mislabelling in the seafood market

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Globally, it is estimated that about 30% of seafood sold to the public in restaurants or retailers is mislabelled or misrepresented. A recent local study found that 18% of seafood samples in South Africa were incorrectly described in terms of species! This is a marginal improvement on a previous similar study, and it is still evident that there is a need for greater transparency in the market.

Transparency is the power of anyone to be able to see of where a product has come from.

Transparency and adequate labelling is also important when identifying sustainable seafood products. As such the WWF-SASSI Consumer Awareness Programme encourages you to ask three questions about the seafood you would like to buy so that you can identify its sustainability status:

  1. What is it?
  2. How was it caught/ farmed?
  3. Where is it from?

A common example of the murkiness in the market is the multitude of different species being referred to by one common name, or many common names used for one species. Cape Dory gets referred to as John Dory (these are two different species); Salmon Trout (a name was made up by mixing two different species – Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout); Seabass (there are many different species that this could be); Haddock is just smoked hake in South Africa; and a big one is prawns (this could be so many different species, from different areas and harvested in different ways).

All WWF-SASSI Retailer/ Supplier Participants are working to include adequate labelling on their products.  This should create a norm and those that are not including adequate labelling will increasingly be at a disadvantage, therefore ultimately eliminating mislabelling from the South African seafood market.

Stephanie McGee, WWF Retail Engagement Officer


South African seafood naming list to reel in fishy businesses

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In light of the current global and local mislabelling trends, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in collaboration with partners from across the seafood supply chain, has sought to undertake a 6-year journey to develop South African National Standard 1647: “Approved market names for South African fish and related seafood species” (SANS1647).

The process began in 2012 when WWF engaged representatives from the commercial fishing sector, small-scale fishing sector, seafood importer and exporters, retailers, restaurants, consumers as well participants from regulatory bodies: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Department of Health, the SABS and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), to initiate discussions on how best to address mislabelling on the local market. After a number of roundtables, an application was submitted to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to develop a national standard and in June 2018 this standard was published.

SANS1647 seeks to provide the least amount of market names for more than 700 species traded locally in order to reduce consumer confusion due to the use of several fanciful seafood names. The standard applies to all forms of fish, including fresh, frozen and canned, and can be used by all seafood outlets or businesses and not only those that are consumer facing.

The publication of this list will provide clarity on the appropriate set of market names for all species traded on our markets and thereby reduce instances of mislabelling. This list will also increase the application of consumer rights as consumers can confidently purchase seafood with the assurance that they are purchasing what is represented on the packaging. Furthermore, the list will benefit consumer awareness programmes such as WWF-SASSI as redlisted or illegal species can no longer be mispresented as more sustainable options.

WWF is currently engaging with its partners in the WWF-SASSI Retailer Participant Scheme in order to adopt this voluntary standard and incorporate it in their labelling commitments. WWF will then look to engage with the broader seafood market to lobby for the large-scale adoption of the standard.

SANS1647 can be bought on the SABS website at:

Junaid Francis, WWF Seafood Industry Liaison Officer

SASSI at Silwood

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Silwood-Chefs1Every year WWF-SASSI pays a visit to Silwood School of Cookery, South Africa’s oldest cookery school. Silwood graduates can be found in the top kitchens of the world. It is always exciting interacting with young chefs in the making as they engage on issues of ocean conservation and how they can take sustainable seafood practices into their culinary careers. The students are ever ready to learn, question and discuss the state of the world’s fish stocks, sustainable and harmful fishing methods and how they can take these learnings back to their kitchens to implement as ocean champions in their own right.

Kirtanya, WWF-SASSI Project Officer

Valuing our oceans on World Oceans Day 2018

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34581569_10160435467175147_5342443702767845376_nWorld Oceans Day was celebrated by WWF-SASSI on 8 June 2018. In the spirit of valuing our oceans we profiled green listed listed fish like mussels, yellowtail and Cape hake on our social media channels encouraging consumers to choose green. We also launched our new creative educational video!

WWF-SASSI hosted an engaging #ValueOurOceans Twitter chat along with WWF South Africa, Two Oceans Aquarium and Johannesburg Zoo on Valuing Our Oceans. Engagement arose from a diverse group of followers conservation partners and businesses around the following questions: How does the ocean add value to your life?; Apart from seafood, what are the lesser-known treasures the oceans gives us?; How are we taking our oceans for granted; Whether you’re inland or near the sea, what’s the one action you pledge to do something positive for our oceans.

We began with a inspiring quote by Sir David Attenborough puts it who said, “No matter how you look at it, this planet is governed by the blue part. The world truly is mostly a blue place”. We shared the fact that new medicines are being produced from compounds discovered in marine animals, such as the venom of the cone snail having been developed as an analgesic for relieving pain. A compound from the invertebrate sea squirt is also now being used as an anti-cancer drug. SASSI also reminded followers that human induced disruption to the ocean is becoming more apparent, in the form of consuming species that are threatened, endangered or protected or fished or farmed in ways that are damaging our environment. However, not all hope it lost as we can all continue to share the SASSI message to consumers in every corner of South Africa, empowering citizens to make responsible seafood choices and be part of a thriving ocean and future!

Search #ValueOurOceans on social media to follow the conversation!

Kirtanya, WWF-SASSI Project Officer

All things Plastic

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Plastic infographicOn 31 July 2018, the Two Oceans Aquarium hosted a night of inspiration and motivation about single-use plastic and the people who are doing something about it! After a full month of awareness-raising for Plastic Free July, this was the ideal time for everyone to come together and engage with the issue of and solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean.

The “Home to Ocean” event was made up of individual presentations followed by a panel discussion facilitated by our very own SASSI Manager, Pavs Pillay. The speakers included Beach Co-op, POLYCO, Faithful to Nature, Love our Trails, #ICarryMyOwn, Plantastic and Rethink the Bag, who all provided different insights to plastics, based on their initiatives. The engagement included, how what we do in our homes affects the health of the ocean, and that of the planet, how beach clean-ups can move communities to take care of their environment, how economic incentives can jumpstart better-engaged informal recycling efforts, how we can drive change amongst consumers, how the corporate world is responding to the crisis of plastic pollution, how we can green our footprint when it comes to large sporting events and what moves ordinary citizens to start up their own campaigns.

It was an engaging evening which concluded with a thought provoking quote by Pavs Pillay, “We need to remember when we make positive lifestyle changes by refusing and reducing single use plastics, we are also actively changing the legacy we leave for future generations”.

Kirtanya, WWF-SASSI Project Officer


All aboard in Gauteng!

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The SASSI ship continues to cut through the rugged inland terrain of Gauteng through the dedication and commitment of our Gauteng Networking Partners. Following a bustling WWF-SASSI training session with staff from Pretoria Zoo Educational Programme, they hosted a Seas and Oceans week programme which educated more than 1000 grade five to seven learners. The programme was largely based on the importance of our oceans, plastic pollution and the critical need to choose sustainable seafood. In line with holistic conservation of our oceans speaking directly to the food, water, energy nexus, WWF-SA recently launched a fantastic campaign centred on renewable energy. #LeanIn smart benches were located across the country to promote the use of renewable energy and it’s benefits. For the next four weeks, this smart bench will be located at one of Johannesburg’s most popular recreational spaces – Zoo Lake so pop on by, take a shady seat and enjoy the perks of free WIFI and solar power. It’s never been easier to experience and support renewable energy. This set up and campaign would not have been possible without the ongoing support of one of WWF-SASSI’s Networking Partners, Joburg City Parks and Zoos. SASSI has established and maintained a solid working relationship with this dedicated team who have never backed down from their commitments and support. We are definitely looking forward to bigger and better sustainability campaigns in the near future with all of our Gauteng Networking Partners!

Melisha Nagiah, WWF-SASSI Project Officer, Gauteng

WWF South Africa’s Living Planet Conference

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WWF South Africa’s Living Planet Conference held on the 25 July 2018 at Sandton’s Maslow Hotel broke all boundaries by hosting a leading session geared specifically towards empowering South African young professionals. The flagship ‘’Young Professionals Think Shop’’ was hosted and developed by our very own young professionals within WWF. Through collaboration with SASSI and its volunteer network, it proved to be a phenomenal success. The workshop creatively coined as a ‘’Think Shop’’ brought together more than forty young professionals (based in Gauteng) from around the country to assess environmental shocks, such as droughts and floods, to minimise their impact on the economy – and the people of South Africa. It was a jam packed session with debates revolving around the food, water and energy nexus. This Think Shop created a platform at the ‘’Great Debate’’ event for fresh minds to interact and pose some serious questions to some of South Africa’s current leadership. Due to the exceptional need for such engagement and involvement of young professionals, we foresee this event to be even bigger and better in the years to come!

Melisha Nagiah – WWF SASSI Project Officer, Gauteng