The South African hake fishery was one of the first fisheries in the world to be certified as sustainable and well-managed by the Marine Stewardship Council, and it remains the only fishery in Africa to have achieved MSC certification.
In October, the fourth re-assessment of the fishery began with a visit to Cape Town by the assessment team made up of Jim Andrews from the UK, Giuseppe Scarcella from Italy and Johanna Pierre from Australia.
The assessment team aim to scrutinise every aspect of the fishery against the MSC Standard. Although assessing a fishery’s sustainability is a complex process, the concept behind the MSC Standard is simple – fishing operations should be conducted in ways that ensure the long-term health of fish populations, while the ecosystems they depend on remain healthy and productive to meet the needs of present and future generations.
The MSC Standard that will be applied in the fourth re-assessment is a more rigorous standard than was previously applied. It requires that more attention be paid to ecosystem issues – such as the effect that fishing has on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the management systems used to protect them – and it will deal with the possibility of stocks of hake being shared with neighbouring countries. These issues have raised some challenges, but the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) is working to address these and it is confident that the re-assessment of the South African trawl fishery for hake will be announced in May 2020.
The consequences of losing MSC certification would be serious, as there are limited export outlets for uncertified hake products and these fetch lower prices.
According to SADSTIA, losing certification would hit hake prices and the market structure, with a negative impact on processing ashore. In a worst case scenario, SADSTIA estimates that 1400 skilled jobs in hake processing could be lost and the industry’s contribution to South Africa’s GDP would be severely reduced.