The FishforLife programme is a national umbrella project set to launch in upcoming months. The project works with members of the recreational fishing community to gather information about their catches – even the “one that got away” to a database used to study the state of South Africa’s marine life.

FishforLife is aimed at improving the knowledge base for the management of our recreational fishery resources, raising awareness about the status of key species and the value of MPAs and improving recreational fishing practices. The project seeks to draw existing initiatives together and develop a national programme for new and existing ventures that contribute to the project aims. Developed as a collaboration between WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) and research institutions, University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes University and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), it is the first project of its kind to be undertaken at a national scale in South Africa.

An important component of FishforLife is the citizen science web-based platform, where, through the sharing of user-generated ‘catch’ data, FishforLife aims to capture a wealth of information from marine and estuarine fishers across the country with the goal of contributing to ecosystem health by informing appropriate management of linefish resources. This online platform will also provide independent recreational fishery databases to angling associations and research institutions.

“The website will be an easily accessible portal through which data can be entered and interesting and current information on fish conservation status, angling good practice and other news can be disseminated to participants,” says SANBI Marine Programme Manager, Kerry Sink, who conceptualised the FishforLife platform.

Angling is popular among every socio-economic class, age group, race group and gender, with an estimated 2.5 million active participants. It is also an important economic activity as it supports retail, tourism and service industries across the country. For many it provides a crucial way of connecting with our mighty ocean. Yet, due to South Africa’s extensive coastline and the dispersed nature of the fishery, recreational catches have not been effectively monitored or addressed, nor accorded the priority that it should.

The future of recreational angling depends, above everything else, on healthy marine ecosystems and strong fish populations.

John Duncan, Marine Programme Manager of WWF-SA believes that recreational fishers and ocean enthusiasts have an important role to play in the future of South Africa’s nearshore fish stocks. He describes FishforLife as, “An exciting way for citizen scientists to contribute to the wellbeing of these species”.

Funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, FishforLife will be an online portal to increase public understanding and appreciation of marine biodiversity while supporting responsible angling practices and conservation efforts.

FishforLife is not just a one way flow of data. Apart from contributing to a national database on the state of fish resources, the website will be an information portal to empower recreational anglers. It will be a source for disseminating best practice information to promote improved angler practices and reduced fish mortality. The project will also raise awareness about threatened marine species and strive to catalyse an appreciation for the value of MPAs in protecting important and vulnerable species.