It is pleasing to report that we have once again delivered on this core purpose by providing value growth for all our main stakeholders. This growth has been underpinned by a 16% increase in earnings, driven by improved catches of industrial fish landed to our fishmeal plants compared to 2013, sustained market demand that resulted in muted volume growth and improved pricing in most of our divisions. This significant increase in earnings was achieved despite the continuing tough market conditions for consumers, and the unexpectedly poor landing this year of horse mackerel in South Africa, one of the primary drivers of revenue growth in 2013. While we experienced mixed levels of performance this year across our four main divisions, collectively they have continued to deliver positive growth in net revenue and earnings.
A full review of the group’s performance against our five strategic objectives is included in our integrated report, also available on our website. However, there is one area in particular that I wish to single out, and that is the leadership Oceana demonstrated in driving transformation in South Africa and localisation in Namibia, two issues that have a critical bearing on our long-term success and that are fundamental to achieving our core purpose.
Showing leadership on transformation and localisation in South Africa, we have retained our level 2 B-BBEE rating for the fourth consecutive year, with a score of 98,39 (2013: 95,17) points out of 100 in terms of the Department of Trade and Industry’s B-BBEE scorecard. We were ranked number one in this year’s Mail & Guardian Most Empowered Companies ranking, up from 70th in 2004, 17th in 2011 and 2nd in 2013.
One of our most meaningful initiatives for providing broad-based empowerment in South Africa, and for delivering genuine broad-based social value from our fishing activities, is through the Oceana Empowerment Trust (the Trust). Established in 2006, the Trust has 2 630 black beneficiaries as at 30 September 2014, holding almost 14 million shares, representing 11,6% of Oceana’s total issued shares. A significant development this year was the payment of R292 million from the Oceana Group to the Trust for distribution to employee beneficiaries. We have also retained our listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Index for the 10th consecutive year.
Oceana’s core purpose is to be Africa’s most efficient converter of fishing rights into value for our shareholders and employees, customers and suppliers, and the communities in which we operate.
During the year, we continued regular formal and informal engagement with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Namibia. An important focus of these meetings was aimed at securing additional horse mackerel quota to ensure our vessels can continue operating and to protect jobs. Our localisation strategy in Namibia, which aims to increase the number of Namibians employed in our horse mackerel operations, has been negatively affected by the reduction in allocated quota. Given the reduction in allocated quota, we were forced to remove a vessel from the Namibian fishery, resulting in the reduction of 100 jobs.
We recognise the importance of engaging regularly with our key stakeholders, to understand and respond appropriately to their specific interests. We place a particular priority on those stakeholders who have a material influence on our activities, namely our employees and unions, government and regulators, investors, customers and suppliers, and the communities in which we operate. Following the changes in leadership within the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries after the recent election, we have placed particular emphasis on developing constructive relationships with the new leaders. At a community level, we have continued building on the consolidation of our corporate social investment activities, through the work of the Oceana Foundation.
Delivering on our core purpose of being Africa’s most efficient converter of fishing rights into shared value requires a strong focus on upholding responsible fishing practices and supporting an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. We strive to be a leading steward of the marine resource by harvesting our marine resource allocations responsibly, partnering with others to promote an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, promoting research to ensure the sustainability of our marine resources, and enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to illegal and unregulated fishing. We also monitor and manage our operational impact on the environment.
We commission and publish annual independent scientific studies relating to the marine resources that we harvest.