25 February 2021

The SA Hake Trawl Fishery: MSC Certified for the Fourth Time

The South African hake trawl fishery industry recently received its fourth certification according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) requirements for sustainable fisheries. It is a significant achievement for the hake trawl fishery industry of the country. To have achieved the certification, requirements such as these had to be met:

  • Adequate monitoring of hake stocks.
  • A healthy level of stocks.
  • Effective environmental impact management.
  • Fishing fleet limits must be in place for fleet size, quotas, and activities.
  • Management of fishery according to legislative requirements (South Africa).
  • Legislation for management of the fishery must be in line with international convention requirements.

Worldwide Focus on Sustainability

Globally, fisheries are making a concerted effort to maintain and improve sustainable fishing practices. The MSC has certified 409 fisheries globally while another 89 are in the process of being assessed.

The hake trawl fishery of Namibia has also received its certification to the sustainability requirements of the MSC.

Period for Which Certification Is Valid

The re-assessment is done over a period of 12 months. The certification is valid for five years, after which the hake trawl fishery of South Africa must undergo re-assessment to retain certification.

Felix Ratheb as the CEO of Sea Harvest Group Ltd and Chairman of the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) noted in a statement to the media that the lasting relationship between the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and academic institutions has contributed to the ability of the South African hake trawl fishery to retain the MSC certification for 16 years. Certification against the MSC framework for sustainable fisheries gives the industry the right to use the prestigious MSC blue label on the packaging of hake products.

The South African hake trawl fishery originally set a benchmark for the trawl fisheries of other countries when it was the first hake fishery to have received the right to use the MSC blue label on their packaging.

According to Ratheb, seafood sustainability ranks high on the priority list of consumers in European countries, the USA, the UK, and Australia. At present, hake is caught by the 32 SADSTIA members. With 67% of the catch destined for the export market, re-certification is thus important for the hake fishery of South Africa.

SADSTIA meets the demand of these consumers because of the high-level commitment to responsible fishery practices. The ongoing monitoring and adherence to legislative requirements have helped to conserve the valuable fish resources of the country.

SADSTIA’s satisfaction with the re-certification is shared by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). In a statement to the media, the acting director of DEFF, Sue Middleton, commented that the Fisheries Management of DEFF supports the MSC certification with pride. She also noted that the support extends to the eco-labelling practice and protection of the marine habitat.

The MSC certification is seen as the epitome of standards in managing fish stocks, sustainable practices, and protection of ocean resources. As a member of SADSTIA, Sea Harvest proudly supports the responsible management of the trawl fishery of South Africa.

Industry Impact

The trawling of two species of hake (Merluccius capensis and Merluccius paradoxus), in addition to the Agulhas sole, make up the largest part of the trawling sector of South Africa. Hake fishery is a significant employer in the country with around 30 000 people employed in the industry.

The MSC blue label can only be used by fisheries that have met the requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard. The standard sets out specific requirements regarding the sustainability of fishing practices. With a rigorous assessment for re-certification, it is an impressive feat for the trawling industry of the country to have once again been recertified according to the MSC framework requirements.

How Consumers Benefit

Consumers benefit directly from the MSC standard as they are able to identify certified companies and products from those companies that meet the MSC standard requirements. This makes sustainable catching of fish traceable, empowering consumers to support responsible fishing and trawling practices.

The re-certification is also significant for South Africans as it helps to keep our hake trawling fishery internationally competitive. The MSC blue label on the packaging gives consumers the confidence to buy the hake caught by SADSTIA members.

Sea Harvest, as a SADSTIA member, has proven an ongoing commitment to responsible hake trawling, environmental protection and the commitment to food and job security globally.


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