Ocean economy report


The World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) released an updated ocean economy scorecard in October, offering an overview of the state of the country’s marine resources. While the report shows some good news, there are still many areas of concern.

The report comes two years after the Ocean Facts and Future report was published. The objective was to give an overview of the state of our oceans, to spur on collaboration and provide a marker for the progress that could be measured and tracked.

Information reveals there has been an increase in overfished stock and a 4% drop in under-fished stock. This indicates more species are being fished to capacity and beyond. The number of sustainably fished species remains exactly as it was two years ago.

Image by ACEP Imidia Project

With around 312 million kilograms of seafood consumed in South Africa annually, the WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) provides consumers with a means to make choices regarding sustainable species consumption. Green species are acceptable to consume while consumers should avoid buying seafood on the red list, and wary of buying orange-listed species. Unfortunately, the number of orange-listed species has increased. Sardines and gurnard are now on the orange list, while carpenter and panga have moved from red to orange.

In addition, African penguin and West Coast rock lobster numbers continue to decline. Penguin numbers are plummeting primarily due to lack of food availability, while rock lobster numbers are declining due to illegal, unprotected and unregulated fishing. A number of species with unknown status has increased as there is limited information available.

African Penguin and West Coast rock lobster numbers continue to decline. 

However, there is good news for fish eaters – they can continue to eat hake as this species continues an upward trajectory at a maximum sustainable yield. Coastal livelihoods have also showed positive changes. Small-scale fishing communities have been identified and the first allocations were made in the Northern Cape. Also, major retailers and suppliers are making progress according to their commitments.

“While it is encouraging that many of the key challenges and issues highlighted in the 2018 scorecard have not shown any major regression, the overall picture is worrying and significant progress still needs to be made going forward if we are to safeguard our marine resources for future generations,” says Pavitray Pillay, head of WWF-SASSI.

shark boat
Image by Peter Chadwick

The report revealed a positive shift when it comes to marine spatial planning and the legislation now being implemented. Just over a week after the release of this information, the Department of Environmental Affairs reported the approval of 20 marine protected areas (MPAs), a move that will bring South Africa’s ocean protection to 5%.

South Africa’s ocean space, which is one of the most varied in the world, is highly productive and diverse. “As we grow and intensify the ocean economy, it is essential to provide the necessary protection to a representative sample of marine ecosystems, thereby ensuring their resilience to human use and impact, and to the impacts associated with climate change,” said Minister Hanekom, acting minister of environmental affairs.

MPAs include the Addo Elephant National Park, Namaqua National Park, Robben Island, Isimangaliso Offshore, the Benguela Bank, Amathole Offshore and Cape Canyon.

WWF welcomes this development. “We have been calling for more marine protected areas for a variety of reasons, one of which is they contribute towards fishery sustainability by, for example, protecting spawning grounds or specific underwater habitats,” says the WWF’s Andrea Weiss. Weiss says people can make their own conscious choices when buying seafood or ordering it at a restaurant by consulting the WWF-SASSI list and its green, orange, red traffic-light system.

Visit wwfsassi.co.za or download the SASSI app, or send a WhatsApp to FishMS on 079 499 8795 to find out whether a type of fish is sustainably caught.

Written by René de Klerk

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