All posts by Kirtanya Lutchminarayan

SASSI Officially included in South African Schools Curriculum

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When we speak to friends many of them say, “When I was little I always wanted to be a Marine Biologist”. Sounds familiar? Well the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation has been making dreams come true, and working hard to offer Marine Sciences as a subject in schools.  Their education team took it upon themselves to write a Marine Sciences curriculum which was approved by the South African Minister of Education in 2019. The subject has been successfully offered at a Grade 10 level at six pilot schools in the Western Cape province, and now rolling out to schools in other provinces. Students at these schools will be the first South Africans to write Marine Sciences as a Grade 12 Matric subject in 2022!

Russell Stevens is the Head of Education at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and has explained the following details: “Marine Sciences is now offered as an online course to interested students starting this year. Grade 10 students in 2021, from any province within South Africa, who have a real interest in the ocean. By arrangement with their school, such students may take the subject as one of their 7 Matric subjects or as an additional 8th Subject. This is also open to adults currently working in the Marine Tourism or similar workspace, inside or outside of South Africa.

Marine Sciences is made up of a range of topics, woven together in a transdisciplinary subject designed to educate students who have an interest in the ocean, its workings and the ocean’s influence on marine and land-based life. It is an ideal subject for those wishing to be employed in ocean-based industries after Matric or study further in the field of Marine Sciences.

It connects the realms of water, rocks, sediments, air, living organisms that inhabit the ocean, and their engagements with each other. It draws attention to ocean ecosystems and their sensitivity to human activity and resource use. Decision makers and the public need an increased awareness about the complex relationships that affect the ocean. The course will equip students with a thorough understanding, to think about ways to conserve and sustain the ocean for the future and is informed by the following four strands.” –

  1. Oceanography
  2. Marine Biology
  3. Ecology
  4. Humans and the Ocean

Sustainability is foregrounded in the teaching of the entire subject and WWF-SASSI and the sustainable seafood consumer message features multiple times throughout the course! We couldn’t be more thrilled.


Feb Be Wary: SASSI’s red list

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We believe that loving the ocean means acting in a way that protects it. Saying no to red listed species is one way we asked ocean lovers to show their love to the big blue for ‘Feb be wary’. Red-listed species include our national fish, galjoen and other national treasures like red stumpnose and red Steenbras. Not forgetting, blue swimming crab and the Japanese yellowtail amberjack often confused with our local yellowtail species. Here’s more on why these species are special.

Galjoen enjoy the security of staying in one place whilst only a small percentage are nomadic. This species is near threatened and is a no sale recreational species meaning that is illegal to sell or buy. Whilst recreational fisherman with a valid permit may catch them, it is illegal to sell their catch. As per the Responsible Angler Guidelines, recreational fishers are requested to not retain but rather tag and release this special species.

Yellowtail Amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata), often confused with local SA yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) is actually farmed in Japan. This species is red listed for cage farming in Japan as these cages are open to the ocean, waste (faeces, food, anti-fouling agents or medicine used to treat sea lice) is released directly into the surrounding water, chemically contaminating our ocean. This waste discharge and poor compliance with aquaculture regulations makes this species a no go in our books. Say no to Yellowtail Amberjack and opt for green listed, local and sustainable Yellowtail instead.

Red stumpnose, fondly known as Miss Lucy, is red listed for linefishing and inshore trawl. This majestic marine species has a steep forehead which, in males, become increasingly pronounced as they get older. Sadly, Miss Lucy is overfished and endangered. This means you have every reason to protect this fish and keep it off your dinner plate.

Red steenbras are a popular species amongst anglers because this fish is caught on just about any bait. This has meant that they are easily fished sadly earning them Endangered status. This red listed species is rated as a no-sale species within South Africa. Only recreational fishers with a permit may catch them following bag and size limits within season only. A no sale recreational species is one that is illegal to sell so rather tag and release these fish.

Blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus & Portunus trituberculatus) are very special creatures. Interesting behaviours of the male crabs include being more territorial in colder water. These species are caught using demersal trawl nets which may impact ETP species, i.e Endangered, Threatened or Protected species such as sharks, rays and turtles.


We protect what we love, and this should extend to our oceans too – say no to red listed species on your dinner plate. Loving our oceans means protecting them and allowing our marine life to thrive. The power is in your hands!

Diversity on our plates = Biodiversity in our oceans

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Diversity on our plates is part of the biodiversity solution. Seafood diversity on your plate helps with biodiversity in our oceans. By eating a variety of green listed fish, you are relieving the pressure on one species or one fishery.

Marine diversity strengthens the ocean ecosystems with each species playing a particular role, from producing food/nutrients and oxygen to reducing our carbon dioxide. This biodiversity includes worms, fish, sharks, whales, and even plankton and allows nature to be productive, resilient and adaptable to environmental changes. Fish, sharks, prawn species, like the much-loved turtles and whales also have the right to exist and thrive for their own sake. A healthy, functioning biodiverse ecosystem means the natural processes are working effectively, including those providing goods and services to humans, such as storing carbon or filtering water. The more biodiversity that becomes depleted, the less nature can provide the food, economic and cultural benefits it currently provides to humanity.

Some fishing methods result in marine species being vulnerable to bycatch? Bycatch – or unwanted catch – is one of the leading threats to marine biodiversity. These can be Endangered, Threatened or Protected (ETP) species such as special birds, sharks, rays and turtles. By choosing green , you may be saving a good few birds, turtles and sharks – just by caring what’s on your dinner plate!

Choosing sustainable seafood and saying no to red listed species will mean shifting demand off species that need to recover. This ensures that our oceans remain productive, resilient and adaptable for time to come.

Check the SASSI list to stay up to date on green listed species:

Can you tell? The low down on canned seafood

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Sardines/pilchards, mackerel, salmon, tuna all have a story… You may be surprised to know that your canned seafood may not be the most sustainable seafood on the block. Reading the label is one way to know exactly what you are eating. It’s even better when retailers and brands label their products. You might find information such as:

What: The species of the fish (there are many types of tuna, sardines & mackerel…)

Where: the ocean/sea or place it was caught/farmed

How: What fishing/farming method was used

The humble sardine, also known as pilchards, is a popular South African favourite. Many tinned varieties are Sardina pichardus  i.e a European pilchard that is orange listed. South African sardines, Sardinops sagax are also orange listed. This means think twice- maybe leave it for the endangered African penguin, it’s their favourite food. These small pelagic fish have been struggling to recover and the low numbers has been concerning  especially on the West Coast.  You might also spot ‘Brisling sardines’ Sprattus spratyss, commonly known as sprat. This can be either green (best choice) or orange (think twice) depending on where it is from.

Tucking into a tinned tuna? In the South African market, we typically encounter 5 types of tuna: Albacore, bigeye tuna, bluefin tuna, skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna. Most canned tuna is likely skipjack, most popularly caught in the South China Sea, off the coast of Thailand. Albacore tuna also found in jars may be a better option (green or orange listed). Search ‘tuna’ on the SASSI list to learn about this multi-faceted fish!

Mackerel, sometimes labelled explicitly and other times labelled as Middlecut, are caught in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean. Scomber scombrus or Atlantic Mackerel is green listed when caught by purse seine & orange listed when trawled. Be sure to read your labels, consult the SASSI app and make a sustainable choice.

Last but not least on our list of canned seafood favourites is the famous, salmon. We know by now that salmon is orange listed 2 (think twice) and farmed in the Atlantic. (Sadly, not all farmed seafood is sustainable!) Good news -canned salmon steaks at selected retailers are labelled as ASC certified. This means it is certified sustainable  by Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Read your labels and remember that ASC is a sustainable choice when it comes to farmed seafood.

These determine the ecological sustainability status of a species. Always read your labels and consult the SASSI app/website to see whether the fish in your tin is truly sustainable:

Kogelberg Marine Coastal Community Monitors shine in conservation through education

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For those of us wondering about the fate of our oceans, this story is sure to make you believe that our planet lies in capable hands.



Morne Yon, Nomfusi Msitho & Robert Kyzer, three of the 13 Marine Coastal Community Monitors (MCCMs) shared their stories of how this group of young warriors have been working daily for just over two exciting years with WWF South Africa, based at the WWF Kogelberg Small Scale Fisheries Satellite Office. The group are all from the three Kogelberg fishing communities; Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay. Their backgrounds and characters are interestingly diverse, each having an inspiring, humbling story to tell – all who have been introduced to the environmental sector through this  project.

MCCMs have the primary role to monitor- come rain or shine! Their duties include monitoring for human activities, birds, mammals, litter, estuaries and animal mortalities along the coast. After a day’s work data is captured and they discuss any interesting finds such as active bird nesting sites and even sardine runs!

Conservation through Education

Since the MCCMs contract is an informal learnership focused on bolstering the fisheries compliance sector in the area, it is vital that they are academically equipped. As such, they have not only been diligently monitoring the Kogelberg, along the beautiful West Coast, but have been studying too, all while assisting with WWF conservation projects in the region. Contrary to the usual trend in ecotourism and fishing communities, there has been a noteworthy presence of female monitors! In the first year of their term the group began their academic journey by upgrading their matric results. In the second year twelve MCMMs participated in the Criminal Law Enforcement Programme (CLEP) which they passed with flying colours: a whopping 92%!. They are now hard at work studying for Higher Certificates in Criminal Justice – (HC:JC), registered with Nelson Mandela University.

Going above the call of duty

The MCCMs have gone above and beyond and shown their potential by taking up community leadership roles. This included assisting fishers with their Interim Relief (IR) permits application, on-boarding fishers onto the Abalobi Fisher App and liaising with fishers for the Baited Remote Unwater Videos (BRUVs). They were also instrumental in assisting their stakeholders, the Overstrand Municipality, CapeNature, the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), with community surveys, beach mortality removals, estuary water sampling and more.

This is just the beginning for our champion MCCMs who still have much to look forward to with upcoming trainings including firefighting, training with the Overstrand Wildfire Volunteers and some more skills-building up their sleeve, depending on their study schedules. Watch this space!

Morne Yon, Nomfusi Msitho & Robert Kyzer | Marine Coastal Community Monitors (MCCMs)


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New SASSI Fish ID App launched for National Marine Month 2021

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October marked National Marine Month and something exciting has been brewing at the SASSI Headquarters. If you have ever had difficulty identifying the species of the seafood at your local fish counter, we have an answer for you. Our new FishID app is a seafood identification system in the palm of your hand. This new SASSI tool will make identifying your favourite sustainable seafood species much easier. All you need to do is scan the fish top to tail at a fish counter and the app will do the work for you. The app currently only identifies a limited list of species & improves as more images are submitted by ocean champions like you.

Download the app by searching “SASSI FishID” in your Appstore or click here for Android:

And here for iOS:

The species currently identifiable by SASSI FishID are as follows:


Atlantic salmon

Black musselcracker


Blood snapper

Blue Swimming Crab

Blue shark

Brindle bass rock cod

Bronze bream

Cape Stumpnose

Common smooth-hound shark





Great white shark




King fish






Natal Stumpnose

New Zealand Ling



Potato bass rock cod


Rainbow trout

Red Drum

Red Stumpnose


River snapper


Shortfin mako shark


Soupfin shark

Spotted grunter



Striped catshark



Twineye skate

White steenbras

White stumpnose

Yellow-belly rock cod


Yellowtail amberjack




Choose green for the penguins

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The Penguin Town Netflix docu-series followed the struggles and triumphs of the Boulders penguin breeding colony in Simon’s Town. Every year, 2500 African penguins gather here. Their mission: find a mate, make babies and not go extinct! But did you know, 95% of the world’s African penguins have already disappeared (and the numbers keep dropping every year)?

This is a result of:

✔️Lack of availability of their preferred prey: pelagic fish like sardines and anchovy. 🎣

​​✔️Climate change 🌊

​​✔️Oiling events 🛢️

✔️Predation 🐱🦭

Did you know that these penguins are classified as endangered by the IUCN, and their numbers decrease by an alarming rate of 5% each year? We really need decision-makers to listen to the science and act to manage fisheries better, and expand marine protected areas. You can help by making informed seafood choices with SASSI – choose green to #SavetheAfricanPenguin

WWF debut a special panel discussion on the plight of the African penguin, moderated by Oscar winner Pippa Ehrlich (of My Octopus Teacher. and Sea Change Project ). This included members of SANCCOB saves seabirds, Red Rock Films and Pavitray Pillay and Craig Smith of WWF South Africa on how to save the African penguin.

Click here to watch the full discussion.

Know Your Fish – World Oceans Day 2021

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World Oceans Day on 8 June attracted ocean champions with arty prizes, when they downloaded and screenshot the SASSI app. Read your labels and #knowyourfish was the order of the day 🐠 as we asked “What’s on your plate?” Sometimes you think you know, sometimes you take things at face value. But as always, the fine print always reveals the catch – literally. If you look at your crabstick boxes you will see that this is made of hake, not crab. On menus you may see ‘salmon trout’ (actually rainbow trout). Salmon is orange listed, whilst trout is green listed. There is no such thing as salmon trout! Trout is actually a great green listed alternative to salmon. If you look at your seafood packaging you will learn that haddock is in fact smoked hake. It all comes down to knowing your fish and reading labels, to truly know what’s on your plate.

When you choose green you are making a decision to help our oceans! Using the SASSI app to make green listed choices means you protecting endangered, threatened and protected species, and that species in trouble are able to recover. We are hopeful about a bountiful future. We are taking action for the oceans. Are you?

Choose local seafood to combat climate change!

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One way to be a climate hero is by checking the SASSI list and making a sustainable seafood choice. This is in line with 4 principles that actually govern the 26th COP (Conference of the Parties) summit that will bring states together to accelerate action towards Climate Change. These are:

Encourage healthy living; Encourage more sustainable behaviour; Promote the use of responsible sources and responsible use of resources throughout the supply chain; Leave a positive legacy

The best you can do to combat climate change effects is to choose local seafood!

Did you know that choosing certain seafood 🐠 over others can satisfy the palate and also help reduce climate impacts? The where and how of fish matters!

⛽ Seafood’s carbon footprint is mostly affected by fuel consumption. For example, a large boat 🛳 traveling the high seas to catch a migratory species is going to burn a lot more fuel than a small boat 🛥 traveling less distance to catch a local species.

📍Where the seafood is processed also can increase its carbon footprint. Even if caught without much travel, shipping seafood for foreign processing and then importing it for sale can skyrocket fuel and energy consumption, leading to higher emission rates 🏭

The tools used to catch seafood can also have variable climate impacts. Purse seines – large nets that can be drawn closed, like a bag – have among the smallest carbon footprints of capture methods. Opting for locally caught and processed seafood can be one of the best ways to combat the high fuel consumption resulting from foreign catch and processing.

🐟Small, lower trophic, pelagic species (those at the near bottom of the food chain) like anchovies & herring have much lower carbon footprints.

Read more here from Yale!

Lockdown lessons from South Africa’s fisheries: Building resilience in small-scale fishing communities

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The WWF South Africa Marine Team has been working with the Fish forward 2 Project and the latest study looked at the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on South African fisheries with a focus on small-scale fisheries.

Individuals in the supply chain as well as small scale fishers in coastal communities across 4 coastal provinces were interviewed about socio-economic conditions before the pandemic, during the first hard lockdown, when lockdown restrictions were relaxed and finally when restrictions were reimplemented during the second wave.

The study found that the industrial fishing sector which had greater access to finances, networks and other resources was better able to absorb the stressors and shocks of last year’s lockdowns. But sadly, the same cannot be said about the small-scale fisheries sector. Small-scale fishers had difficulty adapting to the sudden changes and limitations in operations brought about by the various phases of the lockdown. These impacts were also not equal: small-scale fisheries in some coastal provinces faced more devastating impacts than others.

Fortunately, formally recognised fishers were seen as providing an essential service and awarded permits to fish during lockdown. But still, there were instances where they were prevented from fishing. Fishers who were not formally recognised could only operate using a recreational permit, yet recreational fishing was prohibited during the “hard” lockdown. As a result, many fishers suffered a shortage of seafood protein and food.

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown amplified pre-existing vulnerabilities of small-scale fishers. Many are still excluded from formal supply chains and the inequities and inequalities of the past have not been fully addressed. Fishers still need to be adequately empowered and capacitated!

But not all is doom and gloom as light at the end of the tunnel is emerging through functional co-operatives helping fishers navigate these sudden shocks by building resilience in small-scale fishing communities.

Download the 2021 report here

Written by Monica Stassen, Marine Scientist at WWF South Africa