SOUTH AFRICA – Fisheries in the Global South provide nearly three-quarters of the world’s fish and seafood, but many of them are fishing unsustainably, often because they lack the resources and the capacity to improve the way they operate.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international non-profit organisation which sets science-based standard for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability, collaborates with other NGOs, governments, retailers and funders, to provide a pathway for fisheries that face obstacles in reaching sustainability.

Beginning with comprehensive analysis of fisheries and their environments, MSC pathway projects implement action plans in hundreds of fisheries worldwide, and their performance benchmarked against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

One of MSC pathway projects dubbed Fish For Good was launched in 2017 in collaboration with the Dutch Postcode Lottery, focusing on South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico

The four-year project which is reported to have driven progress in sustainable fishing selected fives fisheries in South Africa after a rigorous process.

“As well as being vital for food security and people’s livelihoods, fisheries in the Global South overlap with some of the most important marine biodiversity hotspots. Optimising the management of South Africa’s fisheries, through projects like Fish for Good, can deliver sustained benefits throughout the seafood supply chain, benefiting coastal communities while maintaining healthy fish stocks.

“The fisheries engaged in Fish for Good have shown a real commitment to demonstrating the sustainability of their fishing operations,” Andrew Gordon, MSC Fisheries Outreach Manager for Southern Africa, said.

The shortlisted participants for the project were considered for deeper mapping according to their target species, areas fished, gear used, catch volumes, stock status, environmental impacts and market potential.

The final five fisheries to proceed toward credible Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) included: Pole and line albacore tuna, Hand-collected East coast rock lobster, Rope-grown mussel, Squid jig and Longline yellowfin tuna.

“The fisheries engaged in Fish for Good have shown a real commitment to demonstrating the sustainability of their fishing operations.”

Andrew Gordon – MSC Fisheries Outreach Manager for Southern Africa

Action plan undertaken under Fish for Good project

The gaps identified in the pre-assessments of the fisheries engaged in Fish for Good were translated into a ‘to do’ list for each fishery so that stakeholders could begin working together towards improved sustainability.

According to MSC each action plan was tailored to address challenges specific to the fishery.

Priority improvement actions relate to the development of harvest control rules and fishery specific management plans, data collection, assessments of fishery interactions with endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, reducing catch of non-target stocks, and understanding potential ecosystem impacts.

Achievements attained from the project implementation

Following successful implementation of the FIPs, some of the fisheries are at par to meet the necessary criteria to voluntarily enter full assessment for MSC certification.

MSC certification is a way of showing that a fishery meets international best practice for sustainable fishing.

Fish and seafood from certified fisheries can carry the blue MSC label, assuring customers that what they’re buying is sustainable.

In 2020, the MSC awarded Ocean Stewardship Fund grants to the Albacore tuna pole and line and the rope-grown mussel fisheries to help them achieve their improvement actions, following expressed interest to meet the MSC’s internationally recognised standard for sustainable fishing.

WWF South Africa was the project’s implementing partner in South Africa and coordinated the action plan development and implementation stages.

“As the project’s implementing coordinator, I believe that the future looks bright for the fisheries that took part in Fish for Good.

“To some, sustainability means more than just good management practice. For most, it is a way of preserving their livelihood,” Bokamoso Lebepe, Fishery Improvement Coordinator at WWF South Africa, said.

The South African Hake fishery was the first to be certified in Africa in 2004, with Namibian Hake attaining the credentials in 2020.

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