South Africa’s hake trawl fishery is celebrating 11 years of MSC certification, following the announcement of a third successful assessment. In 2004 the fishery became the first hake fishery in the world, and the second groundfish fishery, to be certified against the MSC Fisheries Standard. A number of ecological and economic gains have been achieved since then.
A valuable economic resource
Trawled hake is South Africa’s most important commercial fishery. Economists estimate that MSC certification accounts for up to 35% of the fishery’s current economic value.
“The certification is an important achievement for the deep-sea fishery and very good news for South Africa,” said Dr Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA). He added, “Recent economic studies have shown that securing the health of the deep-sea fishery has prevented the loss of up to 12,000 jobs within the fishing industry and growing demand (particularly in northern Europe) for certified sustainable seafood products has resulted in the expansion of export markets worth almost 200 million dollars”.
Good management through collaboration
MSC certification requires good environmental performance as well as robust management systems and, as such, relies heavily on co-operation between the public and private sectors. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has reaffirmed government’s support to the MSC certification of the fishery; “DAFF recognises the valuable economic contributions of the South African hake fishery to the country and is committed to ongoing collaboration with the industry to ensure continued responsible management of this important resource” says Sue Middleton, Chief Director: Fisheries Operations Support at DAFF.
Improving environmental performance
Since certification 11 years ago, the fishery has seen a number of environmental benefits, including the rebuilding of stocks, reductions in seabird interactions and improvements in the management of by-catches. The certification has also seen greater cooperation between the public and private sector. One such partnerships has resulted in pioneering research being conducted in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area 100 nautical miles offshore, where trawlers have stopped fishing in specified zones for a period of four years. The study will monitor ecosystem recovery. This research known as the Benthic Trawl Experiment is a joint initiative between the fishing industry, DAFF, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
MSC’s Southern Africa Programme Manager, Martin Purves says, “Initiatives such as the Benthic Trawl Experiment, and others, are not going unnoticed. Certified hake is receiving increased attention in global markets and today over 600 individual hake products are sold in 42 countries around the world. Consumers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and others are already familiar with this seafood delicacy from the cold, unpolluted and nutrient-rich waters off the coast of South Africa.'