Significant progress in SA fishing industry to meet summit goals | WWF South Africa

Significant progress in SA fishing industry to meet summit goals

Posted on 20 May 2010
Fresh from the sea
© Thomas Peschak

The report demonstrates the progress that has been made by South Africa and Namibia over the past seven years, since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. One commitment resulting from the summit was that all signatory countries must “encourage the application by 2010 of the ecosystem approach for the sustainable development of the oceans”.

Significant progress has been made in certain areas including a reduction in seabird bycatch in South African fisheries, the implementation of precautionary catch limits for certain bycatch species such as kingklip, the consideration of penguin feeding requirements in small pelagic fisheries management and the freezing of the trawl footprint (industry took a voluntary measure to not trawl in any new fishing grounds, and where new grounds are to be opened, an environmental impact assessment will have to be undertaken first). According to the report, while progress has been made in both Namibia and South Africa, there is still much room for improvement.

The report findings suggest that South Africa needs to focus its attention on grappling with aspects of human wellbeing and the implications for fisheries management decisions on dependent fishing communities as the role of the fishing sector to address the national objectives of poverty alleviation is poorly understood.

According to the report, Namibia should focus its attention on the incorporation of ecological aspects such as bycatch management, particularly the incidental mortality of endangered species such as albatrosses and the formal proclamation of marine protected areas.

It was also recommended that both countries need to pay closer attention to the interactions between fisheries and the cumulative and knock-on effects of exploiting key components of the marine environment. The changes observed in Namibia resulting from the collapse of the sardine fishery illustrate the ramifications of a single species approach for the health of marine ecosystems and consequential loss of employment and food security. This clearly demonstrates the implications of not considering an Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries (EAF) management for the ecological sustainability of the Benguela.  Furthermore, penalties for non-compliance should be brought in line with the severity of the act/impact and follow-through ensured.

“Implementing an EAF involves the integration of social, economic and ecological goals,” explains Dr Samantha Petersen, Manager of WWF South Africa’s Sustainable Fisheries Programme.  

“This is only achievable if one set of goals does not dominate at the expense of the others. Although much work is still required to implement an EAF in this region, the benefits of successfully implementing an integrative, collaborative ecosystem management outweigh the short-term difficulties associated with such efforts. WWF remains committed to supporting the governments of South Africa and Namibia in their quest to implement an Ecosystems Approach and, in doing so, protecting the livelihoods of those that depend on the ocean for their income or food.”

It must be acknowledged that although the Southern African region is leading in some important areas, a significant barrier to progress on some objectives is the lack of political or management will from the international community, for example the European Union, in implementing an EAF because of its short term view on fisheries management matters instead of thinking long term.” said Dr Johann Augustyn Acting Chief Director: Resource Management, Marine and Coastal Management

Although it is widely recognised that the elimination of all ecosystem impacts of fisheries is highly unlikely, signatory countries are still expected to implement processes and systems which allow for the incorporation of ecosystem impacts in the respective fisheries in their countries.

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