The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries has published the 2012 Status of the South African Marine Resources Report earlier this month.
According to a recent United Nations report, more than two-thirds of the world's fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested and more than one third are in a state of decline due to the loss of fish habitats, soaring pollution levels in oceans and rivers, and climate change. Further statistics reveal that global main marine fish stocks are in a state of crisis, increasingly pressured by overfishing and environmental degradation. The United Nations report further indicates that fishing is central to the livelihood and food security of over 200 million people, especially in the developing world, while one of five people on this planet depends on fish as the primary source of protein.
In South Africa the fisheries sector is worth around six billion rand per annum and directly employs, in the commercial sector, some 27 000 people. Thousands more and their families depend on these resources for food and the basic needs of life. Within the context of food security, regular scientific work to understand the dynamics of these resources and the provision of reasonably accurate assessments of their status is therefore important for information-based management to ensure that these resources can be utilized sustainably. While research alone cannot prevent stocks from crashing, it remains one of the key components of the overall management system which includes resource management and monitoring, control and surveillance.
The 2012 Status Report confirms that South Africa stocks show no exception to global deteriorating trends as local wild resources generally continue to decline.
Abalone stocks remains in a depleted to heavily depleted state as the resources continues to decline due to increasing levels of poaching and ecological factors.
Linefish resources range from heavily depleted to optimal states depending on species, but there are signs of a positive response of some species to the emergency management measures implemented in 2000. Given the low population sizes of many other linefish species, however, present management measures are expected to assist to allow stock sizes to increase
The West Coast rock lobster resource show some signs of recovery under the current operational management procedure. Deep-water hake remain depleted but the status of this resource is improving, whereas shallow-water hake are considered optimal to abundant. The implementation of precautionary management approaches in the hake fishery in recent years has resulted in a faster than-anticipated recovery of deep-water hake. Harders, which are the main target of the beach-seine and gillnet fisheries, remain in a depleted to heavily depleted state. Environmental anomalies and Illegal netting have impacted on the recruitment of the species in recent years.
The abundance of Agulhas sole has remained relatively constant over the past 15 years and this resource is considered to be abundant.
Cape horse mackerel have increased in abundance in recent years due to good recruitment, and the stock is considered to be in an optimal state.
The status of Patagonian toothfish remains unknown although some data suggest that this resource is depleted and may be declining. The total allowable catch (TAC) for 2011/2012 has been reduced by 20%.
Small pelagic resources are in optimal or abundant states and fishing pressure is optimal to light. Recruitment of all three species was relatively low in 2011 and the anchovy stock is at the lowest level observed during the past 15 years, but sardine and round herring stocks continue to increase.
As wild stocks continue to decline, aquaculture is growing more rapidly than all other animal food producing sectors - and recent figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that around 80 million tonnes of fish and seafood are caught globally each year.
South Africa is among the global fishing nations who have identified the challenges within their fishing industries. With twenty two commercial fisheries sectors and new fisheries being explored and experimented with, South Africa has two fishery sector components. The one component is the wild capture fisheries which include commercial, recreational and small scale fisheries each with their own specific research and management mandates whilst the other component is the aquaculture (fish farming) sector which is considered underdevelopment and as a result been prioritised due to declining wild stocks.
Overall, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, or eight percent of the world population, according to the FAO. People have never eaten as much fish and more people than ever are employed in or depend on the sector.
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries