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What are the key challenges facing the fisheries sector in South Africa and how do we deal with them? These are two of the issues that were addressed at a second symposium hosted by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance in Cape Town.
The aim of the event was to review the work done by the RFA to promote responsible fisheries over the past two years; to unpack the challenges facing the seafood sector; and to find solutions for a more sustainable sector. Attendees included officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); researchers from the University of Cape Town; various retailers; BirdLife SA; FishSA and other industry associations; as well as the Marine Stewardship Council.
Some of the successes and achievements of key projects undertaken by the RFA were presented. This included a Seabirds Energetics research project which shed light on the energy needs of seabirds and how their survival has been impacted by the extraction of fish by the commercial fishing industry. A Birdcatch Mitigation Programme has contributed to the reduction of seabird mortality, particularly during deep-sea hake trawling. New recommendations have been developed to manage inshore bycatch. This includes the setting of precautionary catch limits for bycatch by DAFF for entire fleets. About 200 fishers have benefitted from a Responsible Training Programme, which has resulted in improved care for the ocean.
In discussing the way forward, the event prioritised the need for greater sharing of human and financial resources and responsibility, as well as communication with government via a broader and more inclusive industry forum to address policy and research requirements. According to DAFF’s Johann Augustyn, “A forum that is more representative of all sectors of the fisheries industry is needed to lend greater cohesion and increased legitimacy for any possible engagement process with government.”
Oceana Group CEO, Francois Kuttel, said that he would welcome such a forum. He added that this would be valuable in complementing the work done by the RFA. A broader capacity challenge was identified as another significant issue facing the creation of more sustainable fisheries with one suggestion being to undertake a gap analysis to pinpoint exactly where the opportunities exist to improve capacity.
In conclusion, the alliance is committed to continuing its work to remain relevant, be proactive in developing a collaborative approach to fisheries management, and in identifying solutions to the issues that exist in achieving an EAF in South Africa.