South African seafood naming list to reel in fishy businesses

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