REVIEWING PROGRESS MADE TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES IN SOUTH AFRICA

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What are the key challenges facing the fisheries sector in South Africa and how do we deal with them? These are two of issues addressed at the 2nd Responsibly Fisheries Forum, which was hosted by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) in Cape Town today, June 13, 2012. The Alliance was formed in 2009 in a bid to enhance the implementation of an Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries management (EAF) in South Africa’s fisheries. Its members include the WWF-South Africa and four major fishing companies, namely, Irvin and Johnson (I&J), Oceana Group, Sea Harvest and Viking Fishing.

The aim of the Forum was to review the work done by the RFA to promote responsible fisheries over the past two years; to unpack the challenges facing the seafood sector; and to find solutions for a more sustainable sector. Attendees included officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); researchers from the University of Cape Town; various retailers; BirdLife SA; FishSA and other industry associations; as well as the Marine Stewardship Council.

Some of the successes and achievements of key projects undertaken by the RFA were presented: a Seabirds Energetics research project has shed light on the energy that seabirds draw from the ocean and the extent to which their survival has been impacted by the extraction of fish from the sea by the commercial fishing industry; a Birdcatch Mitigation Programme has contributed to the reduction of seabird mortality particularly during deep-sea hake trawling; new recommendations have been developed to manage inshore bycatch, including the setting of precautionary catch limits for bycatch by DAFF for entire fleets; and 200 fishers have benefitted from a Responsible Training Programme, which has resulted in improved care for the ocean and improved relationships.

In discussing the way forward, the Forum prioritised the need for greater sharing of human and financial resources and responsibility, as well as communication with government via a broader and more inclusive industry forum to address policy and research requirements. According to DAFF’s Johann Augustyn, “A forum that is more representative of all sectors of the fisheries industry is needed to lend greater cohesion and increased legitimacy for any possible engagement process with government.” Oceana Group CEO, Francois Kuttel, said that he would welcome such a forum. He added that this would be valuable in complementing the work done by the RFA, which is aimed at promoting healthy marine systems that will continue to provide society with ecological, social and economic benefits. A broader capacity challenge was identified as another significant issue facing the creation of more sustainable fisheries with one suggestion being to undertake a gap analysis to pinpoint exactly where the opportunities exist to improve capacity.

In conclusion, the alliance committed to continuing its work to remain relevant, proactive in developing a collaborative approach to fisheries management, and in identifying solutions to the issues that exist in achieving an EAF in South Africa.

Issued by:
The Responsible Fisheries Alliance
Junaid Francis
+27 21 657 6600/ jfrancis@wwf.org.za / http://www.rfalliance.org.za/

To arrange an interview please call Quathar Jacobs on +27 21 657 6600 or +27 82 538 7710.

NOTES TO EDITOR:

The RFA was developed around the concept that healthy marine systems will continue to provide society with ecological, social and economic benefits. Therefore, safeguarding the integrity of marine ecosystems is in the interest of WWF and responsible fishing companies. The RFA also affords responsible fishing companies the opportunity to capitalise on the growing demand for sustainable products and enhance the credibility of the fishing industry. It is a forum that promotes self-governance through dynamic dialogue and capacity building initiatives as well as advocating for collaborative effort between government, industry and NGOs to address issues that undermine an EAF. The Alliance has the following objectives:

1. Promote and facilitate the sharing of information, expertise and competencies to effect responsible fishing practices.
2. Influence policy and fishery governance.
3. Develop the skills of fishers and fisheries managers to implement an EAF.
4. Promote and implement independent high-quality research on the implementation of an EAF.
5. Effective engagement with market mechanisms (e.g. Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, Marine Stewardship Council and retailers).
6. Positioning responsible fisheries in the public space.

The Alliance operates through a small group of like-minded organisations that are willing to contribute resources and time towards the fruition of the strategic objectives. A steering committee comprised of members with decision-making authority meets 4-6 times per annum and is supported by technical working groups made up of technical experts from member companies, academic institutions and individuals from other organisations such as BirdLife SA.