Fisheries Conservation Project
By: Victor Ngcongo (Project coordinator)
CapFish (SA) (Pty) LTD
The South African Hake Long Line Association (SAHLLA) has since October 2013 embarked on an extensive, independently funded Fisheries Conservation Project (FCP). The main objective of the project is to assess the key management and conservation issues associated with the fishery with a view to enhancing the sustainability of the fishery and mitigating negative interactions. The fishery targets two species of hake namely deep-water hake Merluccius paradoxus and shallow-water hake M. capensis using demersal (bottom-set) longlines with weighted lines and baited hooks. Although there is historical information on the fishery, research and management of the fishery since long-term rights were established in the early 2000’s has been limited. SAHLLA appointed CapFish to support them in acquiring the necessary information and data to advance the understanding of the fishery impacts on the ecosystem. This includes managing a sea-based scientific Observer Programme as part of the FCP. The project is coordinated by Mr. Victor Ngcongo (CapFish) who collaborates closely with Mr. Clyde Bodenham (Molimo) to manage the project on behalf of SAHLLA.
The FCP is based on a pre-assessment of the fishery against the Marine stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable wild-capture fisheries. While the project has adopted objectives similar to those of the MSC standard, the immediate expected outcome is not currently MSC certification for the fishery. The primary objective of the FCP is to collect verifiable and independent data on the environmental impact of the fishery and to implement meaningful measures to mitigate this impact. These efforts are to assist the fishery to address key sustainability issues related to the South African longline-caught hake (as well as some of the associated by-catch). Many of these species are categorised on the WWF-SA SASSI listing and it is anticipated that the project will help to improve the fishery’s sustainability status on the WWF-SASSI consumer seafood guide. WWF-SA and SAHLLA have co-developed a plan of work with key stakeholders, including the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and fisheries experts at CapFish. This plan identifies sustainability actions to be undertaken within a specified time frame. This work-plan also includes contributions by BirdLife SA and WWF-SA, such as assistance with the training of the vessels officers and crew to promote sustainable fishing practices to minimize impact on the ecosystem.
CapFish has selected and trained a number of experienced scientific observers who have been deployed on the SAHLLA appointed vessels. The project aims to arrange deployments from different ports around the coast, such as Saldanha Bay and Port Elizabeth to cover the full extent of the fishery between Port Nolloth (West coast) and East London (East Coast). Observer deployments have been ongoing since October 2013 and will continue to at least September 2014 as per the FCP agreement.
Scientific data collected during this project will be made available to DAFF to be incorporated into scientific reports presented at the Demersal Scientific Working Group meetings. There is therefore communication between the project coordinators and DAFF regarding the sampling strategy to accommodate specific requirements for the management of the hake resource. Examples of the data being collected include:
- Environmental data and monitoring Endangered Threatened and Protected (ETP) species interactions with the fishery;
- Biometric data (length frequency, sex and gonad maturity stages of the target species);
- Catch composition data;
- Verification of catch and effort data; and
- Operational characteristics of the fleet and gear specifications.