The Committee received a briefing by industry stakeholders on the state of aquaculture and commercial fisheries in South Africa, and areas of improvement for their sustainability. Key considerations were their contribution to local economic and human development, food security and livelihoods; successes and challenges with regard to the governance and management of the fisheries; and proposals to achieve objectives that contributed to the alleviation of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa provided insight into the status of several marine and freshwater aquaculture species, while Aquaculture South Africa presented mainly on the commercial value of the sector, its challenges post-COVID-19, and possible solutions to stabilise the industry.
In recent years the aquaculture industry had expanded substantially, with production levels increasing by almost 75% since 2013 to approximately 6 000 tons. The abalone and trout sectors remained the most valuable, contributing just over 90% of the total value of the industry, with abalone contributing 77%, trout 10% and mussel 6%. The total sales value across the aquaculture sector in 2018 was approximately R1 billion, excluding additional value generated through leisure and tourism, such as trout farming. The main challenges were onerous local regulations, the impact of COVID-19, access to water and unsuitable climatic conditions, the absence of economies of scale, a reliance on exports and a highly competitive international market environment.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa reported on its marine programme focus areas, and listed a number of successes, such as launching a recreational guide on responsible fishing, a “Working on Fishery” improvement project for five fisheries to drive sustainability, and improved collaboration within the fishing sector as evidenced in addressing key issues such as seabed mining around the coastline, and declining African penguin populations. The Responsible Fisheries Alliance had also undertaken a study on endangered, threatened and protected species landed in five major commercial fisheries.
Challenges included lobbying for policy and management changes, advocating for decision-making based on scientific evidence, and reinstating the Offshore Resource Observer Programme. General concerns included key fisheries being in decline; inadequate governmental capacity and support for the small-scale fishing sector; no dedicated management of the recreational fishing sector; the impacts of climate change; archaic fisheries’ data systems; lack of fishery management plans; weak enforcement; inadequate monitoring; and how the short duration of fishing rights did not promote stewardship or development of fisheries in South Africa.
FishSA, an umbrella body that represents the commercial fishing industry in South Africa, provided details of its 12 member associations, and said the sector directly employed in excess of 27 000 South Africans. A further 100 000 people worked in associated industries that supplied goods and services to the industry.
Members wanted to know how South Africa was able ensure that imported fish came from responsible fishing. Another important topic was transformation in the industry. There were concerns that subsistence fishers were being neglected in favour of commercial and small-scale fishers. Did the Department have sufficient personnel to monitor the fishing sector effectively? How effective was the training offered to the wide range of participants in the sector?
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson said the meeting itself was a continuation of the previous week’s meeting. A part of the Portfolio Committee’s (PC’s) oversight was to hear critical stakeholders. He asked the Members to listen patiently, and to ask questions where they were unsure of something. After that, the PC would withdraw as a Committee and find time to sit together with the Department and give it feedback. It was oversight in “an abnormal situation,” but it was equally important because the PC would be interacting with critical stakeholders.
He said that the first presenter would be Prof Peter Britz from Rhodes University, on behalf of Aquaculture South Africa. Mr Rob Landman, Acting Chairperson: Aquaculture South Africa, would present next. Third would be Mr Craig Smith, Senior Manager: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa's Marine Programme (presenting for the Responsible Fisheries Alliance). Mr Junaid Francis, Sustainable Fisheries Manager: WWF, would be accompanying him in presenting. Third to present would be Mr Loyiso Phantshwa, Chairperson: Fish SA. After the four presentations, there would be a discussion, and then the meeting would be closed.
Mr N Singh (IFP) wanted to ask who the delegates from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) were.
The Chairperson replied that the Ministry was represented to take notes. The PC would take notes, and engage the Department separately. The five delegates included Mr Themba Gift Mnguni, Parliamentary Liaison Officer: DEFF, and Ms Nomsa Hani, Head of Office: Deputy Minister: DEFF.
Status of South African aquaculture
Prof Peter Britz, Chairperson: Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, said he aimed to give a “big picture” view of aquaculture in South Africa, and his colleague, Rob Landman, would present from an industry point of view on current “burning issues”.
Aquaculture Association Southern Africa was open to anybody with an interest in aquaculture. It was affiliated with the producer body, Aquaculture South Africa. The latter was formed at the behest of the Department, so that there would be a representative industry body that allowed Government to interact with producers.
In South Africa, aquaculture took place in the sea and in freshwater. Most of the value was on the marine side, with the farming of mussels, oysters, abalone, seaweed (Ulva, Gracilaria), and dusky kob. On the freshwater side, there was trout, African catfish (barbel), and tilapia.
Aquaculture was the youngest farming sector in South Africa. Production had grown steadily, from 346 tonnes in 2015 to 7 103 tonnes in 2019. Aquaculture was relatively small in total tonnage, but it generated a significant value amounting to R1 145 million. The industry provided 3 250 direct on-farm jobs, but this did not include the rest of the value chain. Aquaculture was now a significant contributor to jobs and fish supply, especially in the coastal areas.
The potential of the sector had been recognised early by Government. The National Aquaculture Strategic Framework (NASF) was put in place in 2012. Because of the high hopes attached to aquaculture, there was a significant amount of support for creating an enabling environment for the sector to grow. Interventions were required to address market failure, e.g. value chain development, capacity building, transformation, food security, rural livelihoods. The NASF was aligned with government development policies such as the Industrial Policy Action Programme (IPAP), the National Development Plan (NDP), and the DAFF Integrated Growth and Development Plan.
Rolling out the NASF had meant the enabling of capacity and institutions within Government. These included:
Incentives and finance, such as the Aquaculture Development Economic Plan (ADEP) and development finance institutions (DFIs). The ADEP had been “very effective at crowding investment into the sector” for commercial farms. DFIs had provided corporate loans
Legislation and regulations
Health management services
Access to land and water:
- Aquaculture development zones (ADZs)
- Strategic environmental assessments
- Environmental impact assessments
- Public-private partnerships
The Saldanha Bay ADZ was considered a great success. This had made it possible to grow the industry in Saldanha Bay, otherwise individual companies could not get access to water. The Department had done a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), funded Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), and put in place infrastructure and private-public partnerships. These interventions were beyond the capacity of an individual firm, which had helped to unlock the potential of the sector.
Other contributions from the government included:
Monitoring and control
Training, education and capacity building
- Facilities – state hatcheries
- Access to feed and seed
- Culture based fisheries
- Stakeholder integration
- Markets and trade ((DAFF- Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project))
- Operation Phakisa – aquaculture lab (2014-2019)
Operation Phakisa’s aquaculture lab was “a huge boost to the sector”, and identified it as a sector for growth in the ocean economy. This had led to various interventions, which included the ADZ in Saldanha Bay. In Saldanha Bay, the commercial sector had unbundled to bring small farmers into the value chain. There were small-scale mussel farmers who were funded with loans from the National Empowerment Fund (NEF). These farmers held shares in the processing company. The shareholding structure allowed full value chain participation for farmers, and moved farmers from being price takers to market players.
Abalone was the most valuable sector, with 14 operational farms producing 1 657 tons in 2019, which were worth R1 billion. These were highly intensive, shore-based farms which used home-grown technology, and provided 2 000 permanent jobs. COVID-19 and Chinese politics were major challenges which had resulted in a drop in production, retrenchments and possible closures.
Oysters and mussels were sold in the local market, and were increasingly penetrating export markets. There were eight operational farms in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, with the Saldanha ADZ being the main site. Production was 383 tons of oysters and 3 055 tons of mussels in 2019. There were 250 permanent on-farm jobs.
The marine fish, Dusky Kob, also known as kabeljou, was indigenous. The sector used local technology, with shore-based production. One hatchery was in the East London industrial development zone (IDZ). Because of high production costs there were economic viability challenges. This fish was difficult to farm onshore, and the technology had not been perfected -- it was not yet commercial. There was investment in the species, however.
About 3 000 tons of seaweed was grown annually as feed for abalone in effluent water.
This enhanced the sustainability of the farms, because it extracted any waste nutrients going back to the sea, and provided approximately one-third of the food required for abalone farms.
Prof Britz reported on the status of three freshwater species;
Production was at 1 550 tons in 2019, and was worth R190 million;
Export of trout eggs (ova) to the northern hemisphere;
Trout was also sold for angling tourism, which was an important part of some rural economies, for example, at Rhodes Village, Dullstroom;
Waters were limited, and were shrinking;
Strong demand for product (demand exceeded supply);
Green listed (trout was listed as a sustainable product, and most aquaculture products were also listed as sustainable);
Additional imports (to supplement local production);
Lesotho highland projects supplementing
Trout farming was the oldest form of fish farming in South Africa, and was done in freshwater mountainous areas, where the water was cooler. There was growing trout production in the Lesotho highlands, which was mainly sold into the South African market.
There were 67 small-scale producers who produced 460t in 2019;
Market for 250-300g fish;
Not competitive with Chinese imports, which were landed for approximately US$1/kg;
Climate too cool for mass production -- tilapia was a tropical fish;
Production was taking off in tropical Africa (“this would be the food of the future for Africa’s food supply”);
Producers were mainly selling a fresh fish into a niche market, because they could not compete with frozen, imported fish
There was one active farm called Karoo Catch in Graaff-Reinet, which was a government-funded community project;
All had intensive recirculation systems, as the fish were grown indoors because of the cold winters;
Value added products were developed;
Targeting government procurement for schools, prisons etc.
Aquaculture South Africa
Mr Robert Landman, Acting Chairperson: Aquaculture South Africa, said Aquaculture South Africa was a producer organisation that was formed in 2014 at the request of the then Department of Agriculture, as a body to represent the producers of aquaculture in South Africa.
Producers farmed in both the marine and freshwater sectors. The marine environment had various forms of farming -- either on land (abalone, mussels), or in the ocean (sea cage farming of marine fish). In the freshwater environment, producers farmed trout that was stocked into rivers, farming on land, and in state dams (which hold trout cages). Tilapia was also farmed, mainly using hydroponic systems.
Aquaculture South Africa represented seven producer organisations.
The marine environment producers were the Marine Finfish Farmers Association of South Africa (MFFASA); Abalone Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA); and the Bivalve Farmers Association of South Africa (BFASA).
The freshwater environment producers were Trout South Africa (TroutSA); the Catfish Growers Association of South Africa; the Tilapia Aquaculture Association of South Africa; and the Aquaponics Association (the latter’s joining of the association was currently pending). The Aquaculture Association Southern Africa was an affiliate of Aquaculture South Africa, and sat on the board of Aquaculture South Africa. The AFASA Chair was used as a directorate.
In recent years the aquaculture industry had expanded substantially, with production levels increasing by almost 75% since 2013 to approximately 6 000 tons. The abalone and trout sectors remained the most valuable, contributing just over 90% of the total value of the industry, with abalone contributing 77%, trout 10% and mussel 6%. The total sales value across the aquaculture sector in 2018 was approximately R1 billion, excluding additional value generated through leisure and tourism, such as trout farming.
Aquaculture was not the panacea that would save wild fishery. Aquaculture was very specific. It was like any other farming, in that one needed economies of scale. For example, to start a salmon farming operation in the fjords of Norway, one was not looking at anything less than 12 000 tons. This was important to understand in the context of the environment in South Africa, and whether the country had the environment to build an aquaculture industry on that scale.
South Africa was currently a small part of the aquaculture industry in the world. Aquaculture had a very small part within the DEFF. Success had been in the abalone sector, where the private sector had put a lot into the development of technology, and had then started land-based operations.
Aquaculture took place in rural economies where one did not have a lot of infrastructure. The industry provided a lot of skills, and was often the biggest employer in an area, such as in Gansbaai and Hermanus. The industry used a lot of the knowledge gained, and sets up courses, or links up with universities offering courses and skills training. There was a “mixed batch” of people in the industry, where 36% was made up of women, and 64% was made up of men. Most youths were employed as farm assistants, and most middle-aged people were employed as professionals. The industry as a whole employed 55% black people, 30% coloured people, and 15% white people, with black people making up the majority of abalone farmers, coloured people making the majority of freshwater farmers, and white people making up the majority of farm managers, according to Operation Phakisa data. The industry contributed substantially to employment in rural areas.
Mr Landman said there had been a lot of engagement with the Department and the Ministry recently on issues and challenges that faced the industry.
The main challenges facing abalone farmers were economies of scale, high production costs,
and the one market geography. The people who wanted to consume abalone mostly lived in Asia or in China, and 99% of exports were to China, where the industry got the best prices.
There had been a price pinch over last year or so, as the Hong Kong protests had caused a disruption in the supply chain, and farmers were faced with price wars. There were the trade wars that the USA imposed on China, which stopped a lot of products going from Hong Kong into China. South Africa competed against Australia, Chile and Mexico, New Zealand and China for a share of the abalone market. It paid a tariff into those markets, whereas Australia, for example, had free trade agreements with China, and was able to sell and compete against South Africa in that market.
COVID-19 had not helped, as most of the farming sectors in South Africa supply to the food services sector -- hotels and restaurants -- locally and internationally. The shutdown of those industries had caused a major bottleneck in supply. Biomass on the farms had reached very high levels. The only way to move that product was to put it into a canned product or into a form that could be saved for sale later on. Inventory on farms was backing up. Farmers had had very limited to no sales, so there was no revenue coming into farming operations. The cost of keeping animals alive was high. For example, in the abalone sector, one could pump up to 8.5 million litres of seawater on land into dams. It cost about R1.5 million per month just in electricity costs, and there were feed costs. This was across the board in all of Mr Landman’s land-based farming operations, where the farms have these types of costs.
Challenges for trout farmers were the onerous regulations, the cost of regulatory compliance, and the lack of a positive investment environment, while mussel farmers’ difficulties included access to international markets, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) lease approval delays, and onerous monitoring costs.
With mussel farming, one had to do EIAs, and there was a very onerous regulatory system in South Africa. In the aquaculture sector, the farming sector had to abide by a lot of environmental laws and EIAs. South Africa competed against sectors that did not have those regulations imposed on them. There were production limits because of the EIAs. Mussels were filter feeders, so one would think that the more mussels one could put into the Saldanha Bay area to filter the water, the better it would be, but that was not how people saw it. The regulations limited mussel farmers to a production level that was sometimes not economically viable. The mussel farmers were producing a lot of mussels, and the market for seafood locally was not where all the volume could go to. Most of that volume had to go overseas.
In South Africa, there was a 6-8kg per person per annum fish consumption. In China, there was a 40kg per person per annum fish consumption. In the Spanish and Portuguese markets, fish consumption was also very high. The market in South Africa could not absorb all the production, and that was what would constrain the development of the mussel farms in South Africa. One had to move that excess product when one started getting to 20 000t into international markets. South Africa’s access to international markets was not easy. There were a lot of barriers of entry -- one had to have regulatory compliance, make sure that the waters one was cultivating organisms in were monitored and controlled, and this was not always the case in South Africa Therefore, producers battled to get products into those markets.
The challenges facing Tilapia farmers were onerous regulations, skills development and bio-security guidelines, while those facing catfish farmers were access to state markets such as feeding schemes, prisons etc, operational relief post COVID-19, and marketing assistance.
South Africa had lots of onerous regulations that pertained to the abalone sector. One was not allowed to sell any of the abalone product locally without a permit because there was the question of poached abalone going into the market. Farmers were restricted from selling their product locally, so farmers could not sell their product without going through a very lengthy process of obtaining a permit, and other regulatory points applied. For example, every single vehicle had to have a permit.
There was a plethora of regulations that were imposed on the industry that made it very difficult and challenging for it to work in these circumstances. There was a lack of a positive investment environment, such as the issues with land. It became difficult to attract investors, because the commercial viability in South Africa not as lucrative as in other parts of the world. Nowadays, aquaculture was mostly undertaken by large corporate operations that were willing to take a much smaller margin on the product. The margins that were gained from selling mussels, oysters, and even abalone were becoming “very small”. Private investors did not have the balance sheets to carry those kinds of economies of scale. In order to get to the economies of scale, one had to have a fairly large-scale operation in order to be commercially viable.
Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic had led to low to zero sales, limited fixed cost relief, supply logistics being impeded, expansion and developments halted, and an inventory stockpile, with biomass being exceeded due to the output bottleneck.
Some of the aquaculture farms had tried to access government relief funds. Some were successful, and others were not.
A lot of the product was sold fresh to Hong Kong, and that market was reliant on aircraft flying to that market. The Australian government had made its national airline available to get the product into the Hong Kong market, but in South Africa, things were a bit constrained.
The scenario for the post-COVID-19 period was that after six months, sales would trickle as there would be a slow economic restart; farms would operate at reduced capacity; reduced commodity prices because of over-supply; and revenue would be at 40% of prior year levels.
The scenario for after 12 months was that there would be a reset of surviving farms; revenue slowly returning, dependant on the economic return of the food services sectors; prices remaining suppressed; and travel restrictions and logistics would still be congested.
The Department was aware of these challenges, and was engaging with the sector. It had set up task teams to deal with specific issues around local sales, the Aquaculture Bill, etc. Aquaculture South Africa was very grateful for the Department’s participation, and for the Department helping to get the sector back on track.
The last slide in the presentation detailed the plans to stabilise the industry to encourage future growth, and included information on the status quo, obstacles to doing business and sector stabilisation, and interventions and solutions required. There was a master plan that the President had put together for “kick-starting the economy,” and the oceans economy was one of those sectors that the master plan had addressed. Aquaculture South Africa and the sector as a whole had been asked to comment, and to provide what the aquaculture sector thought were the “pinch points” in its sector. The sector had built a master plan to engage with the government on this topic. The obstacles for doing business and sector stabilisation included slow economic growth in South Africa; significant operating costs; a plethora of regulations; and the new proposed Aquaculture Bill in its current form.
One of the solutions included Aquaculture South Africa engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and finding favourable trade conditions with its partners overseas, and helping it to get access to international trade by making sure that the industry complied locally. Another solution was for the DEFF to maintain its research facilities for fisheries, aquaculture, etc. It was also important to build new technologies. A potential solution that had been on the cards for a long time was centralised permitting and licensing, which would decrease the administrative burden.
Mr Landman said that he had been an advocate for some self-regulation, rather than having the government put regulations on the industry. The mussels on ropes, fishes in cages, etc, were “like mine canaries; they were the first things that were going to be affected if one deteriorated the environment.” Aquaculture had a “green footprint”, and it “does not need the level of regulation that we have”. South Africa had the equivalent of what the USA had got in terms of regulations -- and the latter had no aquaculture. There were much looser regulations in China around fish farming, and people eat a lot more fish. One should look at the expansion of aquaculture in an environment where there was more emphasis on development rather than on regulation.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) said he would have asked why aquaculture was taking so long, and why it was not developing faster, but the presentations had been illuminating on those matters. On trout farming, he asked how much of conflict there was between trout and indigenous species. Were more waters being made available for trout, given the demand? He suggested that starting a barbel project in Graaff-Reinet, which was a water-scarce area, sounded like a “strange location” -- could the aquaculture bodies enlighten the PC on that project, and also speak to the state involvement in that project? The PC heard that there were regulations which were unnecessarily harsh, but he did not think that China was necessarily a good example in terms of a regulatory environment – was there another country that was somewhere between China and the USA? On those regulations that affected aquaculture development, were they all environmental regulations, or were there other departments which imposed restrictions? Surely it would make sense to ease the licensing regulations on abalone sales to the domestic market so that it would be possible for South African restaurants to sell abalone? It would be a “huge drawcard” for Asian tourists.
Mr N Singh (IFP) asked what the principal objections to the contents of the Aquaculture Bill were. What kind of programme was the Department currently supporting aquaculture with, which the PC could take forward? In Belgium, the aquaculture industry was happening via integrated development next to an electricity plant, where they had warm water coming out of the plant, and they had storage of water, etc. What kinds of pilot projects could the government introduce, with the required financial resources and infrastructure, to encourage aquaculture in South Africa’s communities, particularly the peri-urban and rural communities?
Ms H Winkler (DA) asked about absorbing small-scale and subsistence fishing rights into the aquaculture industry. There was oversubscription, and limited fish stocks in many areas. The PC had engaged with communities in the Western Cape, where this issue was very contentious. In Saldanha Bay, there were some aquaculture projects, and she was wondering if there was a plan being devised to escalate the training and upskilling of individuals, and absorb the surplus from small-scale and subsistence into aquaculture? How far was this in terms of the implementation, or the conceptualisation process?
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) remarked that in China, 50% of the fish consumed was from aquaculture. In South Africa, about 1% of the fish people consumed came from aquaculture. South Africa was importing trout – what was it that South Africa was not doing, that needed to be done to grow this industry? A few years ago, when Fisheries was still with Agriculture, the PC had gone on an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape, and he had seen two aquaculture projects, the one in the bay, which seemed very successful, and another project inland which had been a complete failure. A few million Rands had gone into that failure, and there had been absolutely nothing to show for it, aside from the ponds where the fish were held, which had been drained. There was one struggling project in the bay, in the harbour IDZ. It was doing very well, but had financial constraints that stopped it from becoming even more successful.
Mr Landman had said that the fish South Africa produced through aquaculture was not being marketed overseas; that it was not being exported. That was a concern, because there were huge markets for fish, especially in the Far East. Fish and rice were the staple diet there, so the Chinese market was a massive market, with huge disposable income per capita, unlike South Africa, which was very poor. Chinese people could afford the import prices, so what was it that was not being done correctly to grow South Africa’s industry, and to make it attractive for new entrants? Nobody would enter an industry where there were challenges such as surplus stocks that stayed on the shelves and could not be sold. Was the problem with the DTI? Was there a problem anywhere else that the PC could assist to improve the aquaculture industry?
Ms S Mbatha (ANC) said there had been a June 16 commemoration in Soshanguve yesterday. One of the things that had come up was aquaculture. She wanted to know if aquaculture could be done in areas where there was no sea, like in Gauteng. How best could young black farmers be empowered, and be mentored? There were a lot of young farmers in Gauteng who had an interest in aquaculture, despite it being a landlocked province. It was very important to assist these young people, as they had a passion and a love for what they were doing. How best could government assist them to sharpen their skills, and to reduce unemployment?
Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa response
Prof Britz said trout farming was limited by the environment. It was the smallest part of aquaculture in South Africa. The waters available for trout were limited to high mountains, where the water was cool, but there was very little water there. The issue around trout and indigenous species had been resolved in law. There was the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), which allowed trout farming in areas where trout was classified as green. Where trout already existed, it was accepted that they would not do any further harm, and farming was allowed. There were difficulties in obtaining permits for trout. In certain provinces, the provincial environmental authorities were against trout on principle, and made it difficult for some of the trout farmers to farm. The primary problem was a lack of water. There was test farming of trout in Saldanha Bay on an experimental basis to see if trout could be farmed in sea water, because trout could, like salmon, adapt to seawater. There were certain state dams which could be used for trout -- the Sterkfontein dam in the Free State was one example. The Free State environmental authorities were not in favour of trout, so that was not an option at this stage. Even though there was a good market for trout, about 5 000 tons, the production was only about 1 500 tons.
The Karoo Catch barbel farm in Graaff-Reinet had been funded by public money as a community project, using a recirculating aquaculture system. The project suffered from the problem of economic viability, as it had not attracted private sector investment. The project had developed value-added products, as barbel was an easy fish to farm, but the formal market did not like barbel. In Nigeria, barbel had become a huge success, because culturally, people really liked barbel. Value added products had been developed, and the strategy was to targeting state institutions, and receiving preferential procurement. That had not happened yet. There was a question mark over the barbel project, and barbel as a farmed species in South Africa.
Referring to the regulations, he said these were primarily environmental. Aquaculture seemed to be “a lightning conductor.” There was a lot of “anti-aquaculture sentiment” on social media, and he thought that this influenced people. For example, aquaculture was one of the few activities that were listed in the environmental impact regulations. If one wanted to start an aquaculture operation, just because it was aquaculture, it triggered an EIA. With other forms of farming, such as cows or a specific crop, that did not trigger an EIA. Since aquaculture was a “new kid on the block,” it had attracted a lot of regulatory interest. The Aquaculture Bill was formulated along similar lines to the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), where the primary goal was protecting the environment from harm. Aquaculture seemed to inherit that ethos of regulations, rather than an agriculture-type of developmental approach to legislation. There was an ongoing discussion with the Department on the Aquaculture Bill, which had been referred back because of industry concerns which had been expressed to the Minister.
It should be entirely possible to have abalone it in South African restaurants. This was a historical matter with fisheries, because of its concern that restaurants could be used as a front for laundering poached abalone. There had been a lot of red tape put in place to ensure only farmed abalone was sold in restaurants. Restauranteurs said it was just not worth it to go through the bureaucracy of applying for permits from the DEFF. It was a bureaucratic problem. Everyone agreed that South Africa should be selling the abalone. There was no reason why one could not have “perfect traceability” for farmed abalone, as it looked very different to wild abalone. He thought the answer was not to put the onus on the restaurants, but rather that the farms could send certified abalone. There was very good electronic traceability these days. This issue could be resolved quite easily, so it was a question of getting around the different parts of the Fisheries branch. There was often the difficulty of getting the different parts of the Fisheries branch talking to each other in areas such as compliance, science, and management. Especially with the COVID-19 situation, and the pressure that the industry was under, this was an issue that could easily be resolved.
Aquaculture South Africa response
Mr Landman commented further on regulations. He said that in countries where aquaculture had taken off, like Norway, Equador and Madagascar, they had established an aquaculture industry, developed it, and then started to put in constraints to control it and monitor it. South Africa had put all these regulations that the other countries had adopted into its own, as well as all the environmental concerns, and all the negative press that aquaculture was receiving. That had really constrained development.
On the question of why it had taken so long to get aquaculture off the ground, he said it was a question of economics. One’s operation had to be viable. Aquaculture needed water -- the species had to be cultivated in water. Did South Africa have the right environment to produce the scale of aquaculture that Norway had? Norway and Chile had fjords. Ecuador had “massive” flat areas on coastal fronts where aquaculture could be done, and it also had the climate. South Africa did not have a tropical climate, so a lot of those species, such as catfish and tilapia, which require water with a temperature of 28°C, were constrained in their development and could not grow big enough.
When it came to tilapia, 6.5 million tons was being produced worldwide in environments where the water did not need to be heated. It was a question of competitiveness -- could South Africa be competitive? One could not fight the environment -- one had to look at what one had, and be realistic about what one could do. South African abalone was a success story because the industry had started with a product that was sought after in the market. The Chinese market loved South African abalone, as it was considered a premium caviar species, and therefore the technology that was developed had led to commercialisation. It was not the Government pushing that development -- a commercial opportunity had been realised, and people had started growing those farms.
It was the same with trout farming, which was marginal in South Africa. Trout needed very cold, pristine water, but South Africa did not have a lot of rivers and dams. There was a level that South African trout farming could get to, but not to the level of the countries with big trout farming industries. In Lesotho, cages had been put into the Katse dam, where there was a lot of water, and it made economic sense to cultivate there. It all came down to economics.
Regarding youth and small-scale opportunities, one had to build an anchor industry, and build an industry that was commercially viable, and then other things would happen. If South Africa was growing a sector, then it had shown that it could employ people. But if the sector did not grow, it was constrained by growth because of the environment, because of the market, or because of the costs. The costs in South Africa were not cheap, and such costs were problematic for a lot of farms.
The Chairperson remarked that the general response to questions was good. If there were any specific questions, then the PC would follow up on those.
Prof Britz commented that in South Africa the aquaculture industry was limited by the environment, so it would not be able to grow to the scale of the fishing industry. There was scope for organic growth, and in the places where aquaculture had been established, such as Saldanha Bay and the Overberg, it had made a big contribution to coastal communities where there was very little other aquaculture activity. With small-scale farmers, what had proven successful was where one partnered small-scale farmers with the established commercial value chains. It was very difficult to take somebody from a community, and they had to create the whole value chain for themselves. They would have to breed the fish, process it, sell it, market it, etc. If one partnered small-scale farmers with an existing commercial value chain, such as in Saldanha Bay, where farmers were growing mussels, then there was a factory, there was a market, and there were support services. Industry was very receptive to this. If Government was a “marriage broker”, then that could work well. Prof. Britz encouraged the PC to visit Saldanha Bay, because it was a success story where capital and a lot more capacity was being made available by Government to make these public-private community partnerships happen.
Mr Landman said that if the PC Members were interested in seeing aquaculture operations, they were welcome to come and look at the operations to get a first-hand view of what aquaculture was in South Africa, and understand the complexities that the industry was dealing with.
Prof Britz added that the aquaculture projects were long-term initiatives. Fortunately, there had been a commitment from Government with the policy in 2012, and even before that. On the positive side, with regard to the legislation, what was needed by colleagues in the Department was a legal instrument to empower them as an aquaculture branch, because this branch felt like it had been tagged on to Fisheries or Agriculture. This branch had done a good job under the circumstances, but it would help if the legislation recognised aquaculture as a production sector in its own right. That could help with some of the market issues as well. He thought that the regulatory problems that the industry had could be resolved, as there was a positive discussion happening with colleagues in the Department. The legislation on aquaculture did not have to be a complex Act, but just giving the political mandate legislative force would help, and could help with some of the market certification issues, and also some of the regulations.
The following conversation took place in the chat box of Microsoft Teams:
Mr Landman: The aquaculture industry was often seen as the panacea of fisheries where declining catches were evident. Going from a free fishing resource to cultivating and running a farm was not easy. Proper structures needed to be in place to cultivate and be able to add value to the product. Economies of scale were needed. I did satellite farming with small fish farmers about 20 years ago. The challenges were similar to any farming, for instance, for chicken farmers that need to get access to the full value chain, you need an anchor industry in order for that to happen, and a market. In South Africa we are at 6 - 8 kg per capita for fish. Chickens are at 40 kg per capita, yet we do not have that many small-scale chicken farmers. It is a challenge, and the answer to how you integrate small-scale operations is difficult.
Ms Winkler: Do you have any suggestions on how to offset the pressure on fish stocks and the grappling for fishing rights in traditional fishing communities? Eco-tourism, for instance?
Mr Landman: Aquaculture did come about globally as the supplier of fish to the market. We now produce 90 million tons of various fish species, more than capture fisheries, which is stable at 80 million tons. Importantly, the first question is what the market is, what product is needed, and what price can the farmer obtain. Then you need to see if it can be cultivated at a reasonable cost, given the environment in which you wish to farm.
As for a suggestion, abalone was sought after in Asia, but the cultivation is costly. It takes four years to grow and you now need to be at 500 tons if you want to start, about R1 million per ton cost, so half a billion rand is required. Satellite growers are maybe an option, with communities ranching in the ocean perhaps a suggestion. But then you need proper buy-in and policing of the resource.
Ms Winkler: Buy-in meaning government, or private? Has there been any modelling on feasibility and cost?
Mr Landman: In KwaZulu-Natal, we had a very successful ornamental fish farm about 20 years ago, with 15 satellite farmers, but unfortunately the economics did not make sense to continue. The same with a prawn farm we had in Amatikulu – it was a tropical specie and only one crop was possible, and we simply could not compete in an international market. We need to find more species that are indigenous to South Africa that have a good market value, such as Yellowtail or Kob, etc. A social economic impact assessment on species is required, and this the Committee could maybe assist with, so that we could target specific intervention and prevent failures, as there had been so many in aquaculture.
Yes, I meant government buy-in. We often talk about the communities, but they are not structured or recognised by the government. The government needs to assist in setting up the community structures so business could engage with a recognised sector.
WWF-SA Marine Programme
Mr Craig Smith, Senior Manager: WWF South Africa's Marine Programme, presented on the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) project. While the meeting agenda emphasised the RFA, WWF-SA thought that since its work was much broader than the RFA, the PC would find it interesting to understand what WWF-SA did, and also its general concerns and potential solutions to some of the issues facing fisheries and aquaculture. It would be a joint presentation, with his colleague, Mr Junaid Francis, Sustainable Fisheries Manager: WWF, presenting on the RFA.
Marine Programme Focus Areas (WWF-SASSI)
The presentation gave an overview of this programme -- the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). One of its successes was that it had served to raise consumer awareness on the importance of buying sustainable seafood and had a growing consumer and chef following. SASSI had also obtained public commitments from all the major seafood retailers and suppliers, to procure domestic and imported sustainable seafood. Notably, SASSI was in the process of considering assessments for aquaculture species.
The focus areas of the programme were:
The WWF had seconded Dr Kerry Sink to work for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to drive the expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) in South Africa.
It had also provided important funding for the scientific basis for this expansion work.
In partnership with the DEFF, the WWF convened the MPA forum, which brought the MPA stakeholders together to take key issues forward collectively.
The WWF had also capacitated MPA staff through training workshops to improve the management of MPAs.
The WWF also conducted regular MPA management effectiveness tracking tool (METT) assessments to independently monitor improvements in the management of MPAs.
For sustainable fisheries, the marine programme focus areas were:
The WWF works with all three fishing sectors and aquaculture to improve sustainability.
A recreational guide on responsible fishing was publicly launched in last year.
It was working on fishery improvement projects for five fisheries through the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Fish for Good project to drive sustainability, involving rope-grown mussel fishery, albacore tuna pole, squid, yellowfin longline and east coast rock lobster. The latter was a small-scale fishery situated in the Eastern Cape and the southern part of KwaZulu-Natal: the WWF was working with small-scale fishing co-operatives to improve the management of the resource, and the sustainability of that resource
Working with the hake longline sector to improve WWF-SASSI assessments of by-catch species
Working with small-scale fishers in Kogelberg to enhance governance and sustainability of their fisheries through capacitation and empowerment on capturing fisheries data, helping fishers gain market access, alternative/supplementary livelihoods, citizen science projects such as baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs), and environmental monitoring. Such science projects enabled a better understanding of the ecosystem, and enabled the WWF to better engage with communities on co-management of resources. It had also appointed monitors from coastal communities, and was working closely with local municipalities in terms of capacitating communities to understand the environment, and to assist in persuading other members of the community to take better care of the environment.
The WWF was in the process of establishing a project in Hamburg (Eastern Cape), where it would be working with small-scale fishers to build the resilience of communities and marine ecosystems to the impacts of climate change. It had put in a proposal to work along the Wild Coast, with 57 small-scale fishing co-operatives that had been granted rights. The latter was also along the lines of building resilience against the impacts of climate change.
It had convened the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA).
Responsible Fisheries Alliance
The RFA was a novel partnership between the WWF and three major South African fishing companies -- Oceana, Sea Harvest and I&J, as well as two environmental NGOs, WWF-SA and BirdLIfe South Africa. It was novel, because there were big industry companies and NGOs working together to address sustainability challenges. “Internationally, these two sectors would be at loggerheads in the media, but here in South Africa, we see them sit around one table collaboratively to look at how they could address sustainability issues that were relevant to both.”
The RFA had been formed in 2009 to promote responsible fishing practices and an awareness of an ecosystems approach to fisheries (EAF) management in South Africa.
RFA members ascribe to following principles of responsible practice: sustainability, transparency, traceability, and social responsibility.
Referring to RFA successes, the presenters said that this partnership had provided stop-gap funding for key interventions, such as research needs. The alliance had been useful in making funding available to research certain sustainability challenges, for example. It was a platform for dialogue between industry and environmental NGOs, and for cooperation on shared challenges.
The RFA created awareness of responsible fishing practices. The Committee was shown a photo taken at the Ndabeni South African Police Service (SAPS) station, where there were police, fishery control officers, observers and fishers talking together about responsible fishing practices, and how fishing practices could be improved. The RFA had found this forum helpful, because normally compliance officials and fishers would meet at a harbour in a very hostile environment. Through the alliance, the RFA could bring these parties together to discuss what responsible fishing looked like, and what some of the issues between fishers and compliance officers were.
The RFA facilitated tangible change on the water. Many of the solutions that the Alliance had come up with had been implemented by its members in their operations, and this drove positive change. The Alliance could then take action quickly. It had fostered improved collaboration within the fishing sector, as evidenced in addressing key issues such as seabed mining – for example, phosphate mining along the coastline, where the industry had come together to lobby for a moratorium on such activity -- and declining African penguin populations. The Alliance had brought together various scientists such as ecologists and mathematicians to address the decline.
There had been improved management of by-catch species, and 22 new species in total had been brought under management that were not previously under DEFF management operations. The RFA had also undertaken a study on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species landed in five major commercial fisheries. The next step would be how to mitigate against the landing of these ETP species.
The RFA had trained 1 600 skippers, crew, observers and fisheries compliance officers on responsible fishing practice, and created a better understanding of the ecosystems approach to fisheries (EAF). The RFA had seen more willingness among fishers to work with NGOs and government to improve fishing practices.
Eleven associations had adopted or were developing a code of conduct for responsible practice, modelled on the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO’s) code of conduct. The RFA had seen an improvement of practice among these 11 fishery associations. It had also made recommendations on improved implementation of the observer programme, as well as amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA), based on a review done by Rhodes University. There had also been improved collaboration to address the decline in African penguin populations.
The RFA sought to address two key threats to the marine environment. The first was bulk phosphate mining, where it had developed and implemented a strategy to lobby for a moratorium. It had also commissioned a detailed study on the impacts of seismic surveys on various fisheries in South Africa. This study had catalysed the formation of a DEFF working group looking to address seismic surveys.
Statistically, the RFA’s successes were:
1 600 fishers trained in responsible fisheries practices;
23 projects completed (e.g. penguins, bycatch, other seabirds, marine phosphate mining, etc);
More than 600 training posters placed on vessels and in factories;
Approximately R4.7 million in funding secured;
30 vessels with bird management plans;
More than 90% reduction in seabird mortality (offshore trawl sector);
Ten bycatch species in the inshore trawl and 12 bycatch species in the offshore trawl had been brought under management.
The RFA faced a number of challenges, and was lobbying for policy and management changes. It had done a study where it reviewed the MLRA, particularly its strengths in EAF. Another study by SANBI and other organisations had looked at identifying fisheries management areas, and how to include these in the marine spatial planning (MSP) policy. There had been several projects that had not been adopted, implemented or considered within the DEFF, or within the higher echelons of decision-making. A challenge had been how to better lobby for change and adoption of some of the research findings.
It was advocating for decision-making based on scientific evidence and reinstating the OROP (Offshore Resource Observer Programme). This involved lobbying the government for better uptake of the findings of RFA projects, and reinstating the observer programme, which the RFA had also called for in the past.
It was engaging effectively more broadly than with just RFA members. It had found that it could call on Alliance members to implement some of the solutions that it came up with, but it was difficult to have these solutions implemented higher than the membership base of the RFA. Going forward, the RFA wanted to make sure that it had a better reach with its projects.
Current RFA projects included:
- Promoting the inclusion of EAF indicators in the management of the small pelagics fishery;
- Supporting traceability in the West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) fishery. There was a proposal to introduce block chain technology, which was currently with the DDG for approval. This was a project that the RFA would support, as it believed this would contribute to tracking the movement of WCRL in the supply chain, and hopefully eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
- Understanding the socio-economic implications of decisions taken in the WCRL fishery. Prof Kevern Cochran, Rhodes University, was leading the study to understand the implications of decisions taken about WCRL.
- Improving management of bycatch in the inshore trawl fishery. The RFA was partnering with South East Coast Inshore Fishing Association (SECIFA) and the University of Cape Town (UCT).
- The roll-out of an electronic logbook to streamline the collection, transmission and capture of fisheries catch data. There had been a successful trial with I&J, where Mr Rob Landman had led the initiative, and the DEFF, within the Demersal Trawl Fisheries Research Department. There was electronic transfer of data from I&J to DEFF. There would be further trials with a live DEFF database, and with a roll-out to Sea Harvest, Oceana, and the broader fishing industry.
- Broadening the reach of the responsible fisheries training programme. This had been rolled out to some observers, DEFF officials, and RFA members, but there was potential to roll this out beyond RFA members.
Looking ahead, the RFA was looking at adapting its approach. It was looking to grow the RFA membership base, and be more inclusive. Some had considered the RFA to be exclusive, so it wanted to look at how it could invite some of the major players within the most significant fisheries to become members of the RFA and give input into the projects identified.
The RFA also wanted to expand its influence so it could reach out to a broader range of projects. It was looking at small-scale fisheries and some other projects in which the RFA had not traditionally had a strong influence.
It also wanted to work closer with key stakeholders such as the DEFF, FishSA, the Retailers Sustainability Forum and other NGOs beyond the WWF and BirdLifeSA. There was greater scope to work more collaboratively with the rest of the sector, so that the RFA had a bigger influence and could drive change on a greater scale.
General challenges and concerns
Mr Smith presented this section. Some of these concerns came out of the National Biodiversity Assessment Report that SANBI had released last year.
He said key fisheries in decline included west coast rock lobster, abalone, small pelagics and demersal sharks. The biomass of WCRL was at less than 2% of the pristine spawner biomass. In terms of fisheries’ management protocols, this fishery should be closed, but the WWF understood that there were major socioeconomic ramifications regarding the WCRL fishery. However, the resource was at an unsafe level. The Department had a rebuilding strategy, but there was no strategy to restore this resource to a safe level at the moment. This resource was important to coastal communities in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.
Poaching of abalone continued unabated. The Department had attempted many measures to curb abalone poaching, but the resource continued to decline year on year.
Small pelagics was a major concern. It was the largest fishery in South Africa by volume, and was the second most valuable fishery in South Africa. This fishery was going through a major resource crisis -- sardine stocks had crashed, anchovy had declined, and there were the impacts of climate change, which was most likely responsible for these resources shifting eastwards. This shift was undermining the species’ recruitment success. There were total allowable catch levels (TACs) that were not considering the environmental requirements. There was a range of top predators that were heavily dependent on those resources as a source of food, including penguins, geelbek, snoek, etc. With these resources being depleted, it a had knock-on effect in the ecosystem for a number of other top predators.
Demersal sharks were another area of concern. There was disturbing evidence that the fishery was causing the demise of soup fin sharks and smooth hound sharks by the fishing on aggregations of these sharks. These sharks were top predators -- they were very important to the marine ecosystems, and this fishery needed closer scrutiny in terms of its management.
There was inadequate governmental capacity and support for the small-scale fishing sector. The small-scale fisheries sector was very complex, and stretched along the entire coastline of South Africa. The Department had only eight dedicated members of staff that serviced this entire sector. Small-scale fishing communities included the “poorest of the poor,” and government needed to provide more support to this sector.
There was no dedicated management of the recreational fishing sector. This was the largest fishing sector in South Africa. The commercial sector employed approximately 27 000 people, while the recreational sector had approximately 500 000 to 900 000 permit holders. In terms of the local economic contribution, the recreational sector was probably much more than the commercial fishing sector. If one looked at economic studies from the USA, Australia and New Zealand, where researchers tried to assess the economic impact of the recreational sector, it was found that these were important fisheries. These were huge fisheries, and they needed to be properly managed. It was one of the three sectors that were recognised in terms of the MLRA, but there was no dedicated management. The recreational fishing sector was “falling through the cracks.”
The impact of climate change was significant -- “we are witnessing changes in our waters as we speak.” Temperate species were moving eastward, and tropical species were moving southwards. This had major implications for fisheries. Small-scale fishers would be most affected and the most vulnerable in the face of climate change. Small-scale fishers did not have the luxury of being able to move along the coast to target resources. These fishers could only fish the resources that were adjacent to where their communities were situated.
Another challenge was the archaic fisheries’ data systems. To get data from the industry, data had to be completed manually on forms. There was a need to embrace technology. There were now technological systems available that could get the Department real-time information from fisheries in rural settings, from small-scale, commercial and recreational fisheries.
There was a lack of fishery management plans. All of the countries that were doing well in fisheries management had adopted fishery management plans for their fisheries. No South African fisheries had fishery management plans. There was no provision in the MLRA for them. Fishery management plans needed to be developed and implemented for all South Africa’s commercial and small-scale fisheries.
Weak enforcement was a result of there not being enough people on the ground, and the embracing of technology was a problem. There was also inadequate monitoring in the case of both onboard vessels and at landing sites on the shore.
The short duration of fishing rights did not promote stewardship or development of fisheries in South Africa, and was a huge administrative and legal burden for the government. The MLRA provided for only a 15-year duration of the right. Fifteen years was not long enough to promote good stewardship of resources, and also not long enough to develop fisheries in South Africa. There needed to be consideration of whether the MLRA considered a longer term of rights allocations. The legalities pertaining to rights allocations also needed to be addressed. Those resources could be better used to manage fisheries, as opposed to being a regular rights allocation.
Aquaculture was not the silver bullet to the concerns raised above. There were many limitations with regards to aquaculture. It was not a replacement for wild-capture fisheries.
Mr Smith submitted a range of solutions to address some of these challenges:
West coast rock lobster – commit to a fishery improvement project (FIP) that would rebuild resources to safe levels.
Abalone – inclusive management, where communities co-manage resources together with the government, should to be considered.
Small pelagics – conservative total allowable catch (TAC) setting that takes into account the entire ecosystem requirements. In other words, it should not just consider the off-take by the fishery, but also looks at the ecosystem requirements. What was required for the top predators in order to ensure that the industry did not overfish the small pelagics? What was required to ensure that South Africa did not end up in the same position as Namibia? Namibia had a 1.4-million-ton sardine catch in its heyday in the 1960s. Because of over-fishing, that fishery had collapsed, and the ecosystem had shifted.
Small-scale fishing – the DEFF needed more capacity and partnerships, and small-scale fishing co-operatives needed mentors. When the co-operatives were formed, the idea was that the Department would simultaneously develop a mentorship programme, so each co-operative would have an independent mentor who would help the fishers to understand the functioning of a co-operative, and the roles and responsibilities of the members in a co-operative. Without that mentorship, it was difficult for coastal communities to understand how to operate a business at this level.
Recreational fishing sector – a more inclusive approach was required, as was the use of technology. This sector could not be managed in the same way that the commercial sector was managed. Recreational fishers were not mobilised as associations, unlike commercial fishers. The development of mobile apps where one could reach all of the users could be a better way of getting communication to recreational fishers, getting them on board, ensuring responsible fishing, and to get important data from that fishery.
Impacts of climate change – more ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) projects were required to build resilience for communities and ecosystems. Small-scale fishers in coastal communities would be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. There was a need to work together as a collective, to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Archaic fisheries data systems – the Abalobi tool, for fishers themselves and the marketplace, needed to be internalised in the DEFF so that it could make full use of that app, and be able to get that information from small-scale or commercial fishers, so that it was in a better position to have real-time data to make good management decisions based on data.
Fishery management plans – make it a mandatory provision in the MLRA.
Weak enforcement – the DEFF’s office hours was one of the main challenges that needed to be addressed. It continued to operate office hours to manage fisheries, but fishing did not operate during office hours. A lot of criminal activity happened after hours.
Inadequate monitoring – the DEFF should reinstate the on-board observer programme and the shore-based catch data monitoring programme.
Fishing rights – the MLRA should be amended to make provision for a longer-term fishing rights. This would allow for development, and also for the promotion of good stewardship of the resources.
Fish SA: Fishing for a sustainable future
Mr Loyiso Phantshwa, Chairperson: Fish SA, said FishSA was an umbrella body that represented the commercial fishing industry in South Africa. There were 12 member associations, so it covered the entire commercial fishing sector. The presentation spoke to each of the 12 associations -- their methods of fishing, their value, their contribution, etc., including their transformation. It also contained information on where each association fished, and in some instances, where the fish ended up from an economic activity point of view. The sector directly employed in excess of 27 000 South Africans. A further 100 000 people work in associated industries that supply goods and services to the industry. All of the figures for the sectors could be found in the brochure entitled, Fishing for a Sustainable Future.
He gave the following statistical data of the 12 associations
SAMSIA – South African Squid Management Industrial Association
More than 62% black ownership
123 sea-freezing vessels (12 to 24m)
SAPFIA – South African Pelagic Fishing Industry Association
Contributes an investment of R3.3 billion (fleet and processing assets)
5 800 employees
SCRLIA (South Coast Rock Lobster Industry Association) and WCRLA (West Coast Rock Lobster Association), were two associations involved in lobster fishing. These sectors contributed significantly to employment and economic activity.
SECIFA – South East Coast Inshore Fishing Association
The inshore trawl fishery catches hake and Agulhas sole on the south and east coasts of South Africa
R500 million in investments
SADSTIA – South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association
One of the most valuable sectors – 7 300 people employed
R6.6 billion in investments (fleet and processing assets)
R4.5 billion catch value
67% of the catch was exported
SAHLLA – South African Hake Longline Association
1 500 to 2 000 employees
More than R200 million in investments
Catch value was more than R363 million
65% of the catch was exported
SAMTA – South African Midwater Trawl Association
R400 million in investments
30 000t annual average catch
Catch value was R400 million
SATA – South African Tuna Association
More than 60% black ownership
Catch value was more than R267 million
100% of the catch was exported
LPSMME – Large Pelagic Small Medium & Micro Enterprises Association
R5 million to R20 million in investments
90% of the catch was exported
SATLA – South Africa Tuna Longline Association
R3 to R35 million in investments per boat
SAPTIA – South African Patagonian Toothfish Industry Association
Annual average catch of 400t
Catch value was R85 million
The fishing industry’s economic value was not limited to the Western Cape. It provided jobs in the most rural parts of South Africa, and in smaller towns along the coast. This was important for South Africa’s economy. It was a significant contributor of jobs, in both direct employment and associated industries. FishSA’s primary job as an umbrella body was to engage with stakeholders like the government, other economic players in terms of safety, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), lobbying and strategically positioning the sector.
The MLRA had been enacted as a management tool to deal with fisheries in the country. Section 8 recognised industrial bodies and interest groups. These industrial bodies represent specific sectors. It was an important recognition, because while FishSA was an umbrella body, the other associations listed were also recognised as independent groups which dealt with specific fisheries issues. Sometimes it could be complicated in fisheries, as one needed to bring in the people who were affected by policy or specific laws. Those bodies were equally important. FishSA brought various stakeholders to the table, and would continue to engage with the PC and other stakeholders, and also put forward some of the associations to members, where associations had specific issues to deal with that did not affect other associations.
Mr Phantshwa referred to COVID-19, and said fisheries had been declared a critical sector, and had continued to fish under very difficult circumstances, and continued to engage with the Ministry and the Department in that regard. The industry as a whole had lost not more than 500 jobs, and this had been achieved under very difficult circumstances. Most commercial companies continued “to bleed” due to the difficult circumstances. There had been recognition that it was time for all in the sector to come together and try to save the jobs that the sector had, to try to build up capacity, and try to protect the workers from a health point of view, and also from the “economic catastrophe” that had been brought on by COVID-19.
Beyond that, it would be important to look at the sector and start asking questions about whether the sector could continue to protect jobs, get the necessary support from a policy point of view, get the necessary support from institutions such as Government to ensure that jobs were protected, and to ensure that the sector’s investments were protected. FishSA would also look at ensuring stability going forward. It had continued discussions with the Minister to ensure that, on a service delivery level, the industry was assisted.
Going forward, there were some other sectors that would be affected by various policy decisions that would be taken. It was in the fishing industry’s interest, and the interest of the economy, jobs, the rural towns where FishSA members continued to employ hundreds of people, the rural towns where employment was hard to come by, to ensure that the commercial fishing sector was protected and prioritised. In was also in the industry’s interest that the policies implemented going forward ensured that there was job sustainability, an increase in investment, that there was job creation, and that all of these indicators helped the sector going forward.
Part of the challenges of the fishing industry was that it needed to work closely with government, not only because it was an important stakeholder, but also because the government was also a regulator in the industry. The role of government as a regulator in the fishing sector was not just limited to ensuring that the MLRA was implemented, but also to look at the impact of the industry in general from a socioeconomic point of view. This would become more critical post-COVID-19. FishSA said this because it continued to operate under very difficult circumstances. It had lost very few jobs, but going forward, the industry could not afford to be at a disadvantage. It needed to continue to sustain jobs, and to create new jobs. The industry operated in environments that were critical from a rural economy point of view, and it provided income in areas that were remote on the coast.
The Government takes into account the socioeconomic impact when making decisions. There were environmental impacts that also needed to be balanced, as well as the legal position that it needed to take. Whatever decisions needed to be taken now, those had to take into account the socioeconomic impact. FishSA welcomed the Government’s indication that this would be done. FishSA wanted to participate in this -- it was important to do so, so that it could present to Government what it could do better. The Minister had promised that the decision-making process would be transparent going forward, and that all decisions would be backed by proper science and FishSA welcomed this. There needed to be research that backed the critical issues. Section 2 of the MLRA talked about economic growth, human resources, capacity building, sound ecological balance, which also spoke to the developmental objectives of the national government.
The second issue that FishSA looked forward to engaging with the Department on post-COVID-19, was research. Decisions informed by scientific research on the allocation of fishing rights needed to be made within the context of the Act. The government and the industry play an important role in these decisions, and it was these decisions that provide a source of livelihood for many people. The industry needed to play an important role in this process because without sustainability, the industry was at a disadvantage. It was not just a question of sustainability -- it also involved the government making resources available for research work, which it must do by law. If the fishing industry was expected to comply with various pieces of legislation, Government was equally expected to comply with its responsibility to ensure that research was done; that the research vessels were maintained; that the vessels were at sea collecting data; and that the data was provided transparently to the industry and to all other stakeholders.
Mr Phantshwa believed that stakeholders such as the WWF would be interested in such data. It had been a critical part of the struggle in the past to ensure that this research was done, and the industry had a responsibility to the Department to ensure that it got the necessary funding to ensure that research vessels were back at sea, and the vessels did what they needed to do. This was because whatever policy that would inform all the allocations for the different species that were shown in the FishSA brochure, were dependent on that research being done properly. In instances where this research was not able to be done because there was either a lack of resources or a lack of capacity, it affected the fishing industry, and it also affected the industry’s standing internationally.
One could see from the FishSA brochure how many of the sectors sold to international markets. The fishing industry was one of the best exporting sectors in the country. It exported to very credible markets, and if one was not fishing sustainably, and not doing research properly, those markets could be closed to South Africa. The industry wanted to make proposals to work with Government. Without wanting to be both a referee and a player, a closer relationship between the industry and Government on research was very important. To keep jobs, the fishing industry needed access to the markets in Europe, Asia and North America.
Some of the species exported overseas included deep-sea species, and the Marine Stewardship Council approval was a “gold standard” for deep-sea hake to access certain markets. In order to meet such standards, one had to make sure that certain requirements were met. The Minister, and the government in general, was “very proud” that the fishing industry was able to access those markets, and the industry needed to ensure that it maintained those standards. The industry could not keep those standards if there was no capacity in the Department from a personnel point of view, and no capacity financially to produce credible research.
Mr Phantshwa said that the fishing industry was often portrayed as an untransformed industry. While every industry in South Africa owed its history to the past, one also had to recognise that there had been a lot of changes in the last 20 years in the different fisheries. There needed to be recognition of the historically disadvantaged people that had been brought into the industry. There was also a need to ensure that such people were capacitated, to ensure that they had full participation in the industry, and that they were not paper quota holders. This was not talking only about famous corporates -- there may be people that were not seen because their brand was not as famous. Such people had been in the industry, and continued to be in the industry. They were historically disadvantaged, but continued to employ a significant amount of people, and operated within important fisheries. The industry had made strides in transformation. Mr Phantshwa said that he would be the first to admit that in terms of the inclusion of women, the industry could do better. There was also a need to encourage investment in order to speak to the FishSA members where they were failing to increase transformation. Such transformation would include involving women, people with disabilities, and young people.
As far as ownership was concerned, there had been a positive improvement. There was the question of what kind of standards the government would like to see in this regard. The fact that the Minister had promised that the process would be transparent would speak to the abovementioned aspects. It would recognise the positive changes that had taken place. It would criticise fairly where those changes had not taken place. It would take into account the investment and assistance that had been given to those coming to participate in the industry. It would also look into the previously disadvantaged people who had been given an opportunity, in order to ensure that the opportunity was meaningful, and that those people continued in the fishing space.
This was not to say that the industry was perfect in all sectors. There was a need to ensure that whatever policy was brought out in fisheries, it did not destroy the value that had been created from a transformation and an economic point of view. The industry must also not stop being critical where it needed to improve. FishSA welcomed the transparency and initiatives that the new Minister had taken to try and talk to the industry, and to be a lot more collaborative going forward. FishSA looked forward to engaging with the PC and all other stakeholders, including the Ministry, in ensuring that the industry was sustainable, grows, was stable, and that the fishing policy created jobs and investments, and achieved full transformation.
Mr Paulsen said that although South Africa in some way was able to guarantee that local fish came from responsible fishing, how was it able to ensure that the imported fish also came from responsible fishing?
Mr Singh said that it was the first time he had heard someone praising the Department, but he realised that it was in relation to the commercial sector. He wanted to know more about the positive improvement in ownership in the sector. Perhaps at some stage the PC could get some figures? It had often heard that the commercial sector was creating jobs, but it wanted to know when equity was going to be created in this sector, 26 years into South Africa’s democracy.
The PC had a meeting with small-scale fishers last week, and he was getting two different pictures of the Department. It seemed to him like the Department was concentrating on the commercial sector and small-scale sector, and forgetting everybody else. He had never heard the word “subsistence” mentioned once, and yet there were a large number of people who called themselves subsistence fisher persons. Was it perhaps that the MLRA did not categorise such fishers as subsistence fishermen? They were the ones who needed food on the table at this moment in time.
He also wanted to know about the training that the RFA offered -- did they train communities, and which communities had they trained? Would the RFA not train communities on MPAs, and what it meant to them, and how they should preserve fish, etc? It seemed to him that the bias was on the West Coast -- lobsters, abalone, “all those expensive fish” -- what about what was happening on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal?
Ms Winkler asked how many of the recreational fishing permit holders were in fact subsistence fishers who were unable to qualify for the small-scale fishing permit. The presenter from the WWF had said he had done a lot of engagement with coastal communities with regard to the fishing rights -- had he anticipated the similar challenges that existed in KwaZulu-Natal, where many subsistence fishers say that they do not know how to access small-scale fishing rights.
Mr P Modise (ANC) thought that it was important for the PC to get an in-depth understanding of whether the presenters had met with the Department. Some of the issues that the PC was going to seek clarity on were at the level of the Department. He was raising his question because one of the presenters had spoken about the fact that the Department needed capacity when referring to small-scale fisheries, co-operatives, etc. What yardstick was the WWF using to measure whether the Department needed capacity? He thought that it was important to get an understanding from the level of the commercial fisheries as to whether the industry was assisting the government with establishing co-operatives -- how many there were, in which communities they were operating -- so that the PC could check the contribution of both the private sector and the Department. What sections of the MLRA did the aquaculture industry recommend be amended? Which sections did it have in mind, and for what purpose did it recommend those sections had to be amended? Was it in the interest of the public, or in the interests of commercial aquaculture farmers?
Mr Smith answered questions directed to WWF. On the importation of seafood, and whether it could be assured that it came from a responsible source, the WWF relied on its broader international network. It considered all the major seafood species that were sold in South African markets, and it got the assessments from its international network. Its assessment scorecards were also included for the various species. It assessed both domestic and imported products to ensure that it upheld good standards, and encouraged retailers, consumers, suppliers, etc. to procure and consume sustainable seafood.
On subsistence fishing, he said it was rather unfortunate that with the inclusion of the small-scale fishing sector as an amendment to MLRA, subsistence fishery had been withdrawn from the MRLA, and that there was no longer a legal recognition of subsistence fishery in terms of the MLRA. That was something that had unintended consequences in terms of how the Department had gone forward in addressing the small-scale fishing sector. Some of the intentions with regard to the small-scale fishing sector were that it was supposed to include subsistence fishing, combined with commercial fishing. This sector was supposed to take into account both activities in the formulation of the small-scale sector. There were a number of people who were still left out, and were not recognised either in the commercial fishing sector or in the small-scale fishing sector. Such people were left only with the recreational permit to legally access marine resources.
The RFA did not train communities directly, but the WWF had been involved in the training of communities in EAF. The WWF had done this training in 2018, where 38 communities were trained, and over 1 000 fishers from those 38 communities across the South African coastline had been trained. The training had been done in partnership with International Oceans South Africa.
On how many recreational fishers were subsistence fishers, he said there were a number of people who used the post office permit to put food on the table. There was a big contingent who used that permit for sport and leisure, but there was a significant component who could not legally put food on the table without that permit. This was particularly common in rural areas, especially in the Northern Cape and the West Coast. In the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, it was particularly prevalent, where recreational fishers were actually subsistence fishers. With the Department’s implementation of the small-scale fishing sector, it was advised that those people who resided in those communities who were not currently recognised, should be included into the small-scale fishing co-operatives as employees, with the intention that under the small-scale fishing regulations, they become members of the co-operatives. After three years, rights would be allocated. However, in that time, people would get a means of accessing resources through the co-operatives. The Department had tried to make that clear to communities -- that there was the opportunity for people who had not been recognised as small-scale fishers to be a part of the small-scale fishing sector. The WWF hoped that community members would take up that offer, and align themselves with the small-scale fishing sector. A number of community members did not see themselves as being part of a co-operative, and would prefer rights in their own names. That had been a long-standing contentious issue in terms of the implementation of the small-scale fishing sector.
Regarding the WWF’s level of engagement with the Department, he said the DEFF was a key partner. The WWF looked to support government in the work it was doing. It was involved in scientific working groups, and management working groups. It was also involved in the small-scale fisheries sector, where it offered support as an NGO to coastal communities. It hoped to create a bigger impact for the environment and for people.
On the government capacity needed in the small-scale sector, he said the small-scale fishing directorate had eight staff members. The number of participants in the small-scale fishery was approximately 10 000 people. The Western Cape still had to undergo the rights allocation process. In the commercial sector -- inshore, offshore, big industrial, etc -- there were approximately 27 000 people. There were about 40 people who managed the commercial sector. The small-scale fishing sector was far more complex, because it was not just a matter of allocating rights and managing fisheries, it was where the government needed to provide support to communities. People needed government interventions; they needed to be capacitated; they needed to be empowered; they needed to be brought into the value chain, where they could “benefit fairly from the resources that they harvested.” That required a large amount of capacity to be able to work with people. Eight people stretched along the entire South African coastline was not enough people to get that work done. If the Department could not appoint more people in that directorate, then partnerships would be the order of the day.
The WWF stood ready and it had made it clear that it was important work. Small-scale fishing the world over was important for fisheries, and it was no different in South Africa. The WWF was ready to engage and support where it could. It was “all hands on deck.” with the commercial sector being able to leverage support, with NGOs, with civil society, and with local municipalities. They were all crucial to make the small-scale sector work, and to address the issue of the inequality in South Africa. There needed to be a lot more focus on the small-scale sector.
Fish SA’s Response
Mr Phantshwa commented that the commercial sector had lent support. There were individual companies who were developing programmes to help small-scale fishers where they could. Some of those programmes were already visible from a training point of view. There was a need to assist small-scale fisheries. The Department managed that fishery, and the industry supported any call to capacitate the Department as far as small-scale fisheries was concerned.
Regarding ownership, the objectives and the principles were spelt out in the MLRA, which were to achieve economic growth and other things, including capacity-building. The MLRA also said that there needed to be a restructuring of the historical imbalances to achieve equity within all branches of the fishing industry. Members would see for themselves that where individual sectors came before the PC, and where social-economic impact studies were being done, what change had taken place. Those who had refused to change were going to be shamed. If somebody had not been able to effect changes to do what the Act said must be done, then that was incorrect.
The Department had the right to pursue a policy that ensured that there was transformation, and that there was recognition of existing transformation. People needed to be rewarded for doing what was right. The changes that had taken place over 20 years showed that there were black people who were in fishing who would not have been there 30 years ago, and that needed to be recognised. Moving forward, the industry needed to ask those who had not done anything about transformation what it needed to do as a sector. It also needed to ask the Department what it was doing to ensure that there was transformation. FishSA was not talking about superficial transformation; it was talking about transformation from the boardroom all the way to ownership, and all the indices that indicated proper transformation to support equity.
Mr Phantshwa said FishSA would stand by the Government in ensuring that this was done. He knew that his members understood the need for transformation, and that some of the members were engaged in transformation and had done so, and there were players who had made the sector “very proud.” Such members had used their quotas, and had employed black-owned small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), and who continued to grow. FishSA wanted to encourage that. It also wanted to make sure that there was a broad and accountable participation in the decision-making process, as that also ensured that the industry was able to transform. All of the above-mentioned factors were part of what FishSA advocated, and part of how it hoped to continue engaging with the PC, the Ministry, and other stakeholders going forward.
The Chairperson said that today’s meeting had an introductory one. There would be follow-up meetings, especially with the different associations affiliated to FishSA. With the other stakeholders who presented, if there was anything that the PC wanted to follow up as a Committee, it would not hesitate to engage with them. There were also invitations to view aquaculture projects, but there was a lockdown due to COVID-19. At some future date, the PC might want to see for itself what was happening.
This had been an oversight meeting by the Committee, and it would engage further with the Department. After that, it would come back to the critical stakeholders, who would make presentations to the PC. If there were specific questions raised that Members wanted to follow up on, the Committee would do so. The Chairperson apologised for what he called an “inconvenient time”.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.