Dr Theressa Frantz takes the lead in the RFA

Newly appointed RFA Chairperson, Dr Theressa Frantz, says we all have a role to play in improving the fisheries sector for the health of our oceans and the well-being of all who benefit from it. A seasoned fisheries biologist, Frantz heads up WWF South Africa’s Environmental Programmes and is the newly appointed Chairperson of the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA).

Dr Frantz is driven by her need to make a difference. She started her career in what was previously known as the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in 1995, rising through the ranks in the Marine and Coastal Management branch, and completed her tenure in the organisation as the Director of Offshore and High Seas Fisheries Management.

She later joined the South African National Biodiversity Institute as Director of Research and Monitoring, before joining WWF South Africa in September 2014. Dr Frantz has a particular affinity for the South African fisheries sector.

In her latest endeavour as a champion for healthy marine ecosystems, she will be chairing the Alliance’s steering committee. Since the Alliance started, Frantz is the second woman and NGO representative from the science community to chair the RFA, following Dr Samantha Petersen who held the reigns in 2009.

She says: “More than 20 years into our democracy, much work remains for achieving equity in our society, organisations and the fishing sector. We all have a responsibility to work as change agents for a better society and sector, whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

 Reflecting on her achievements to date, Frantz is most proud of the collective action around the management of incidental seabird bycatch. As Director of Offshore and High Seas Fisheries Management in 2006, Dr Frantz spearheaded and chaired the inaugural Offshore and High Seas Fisheries Management Working Groups.

She noted the management of incidental seabird bycatch as being one of the greatest achievements at the time. It was around the time when the first ever threshold limits were set for seabird mortality per fishing vessel and per fishing trip for longline fishing vessels. Flying the bird scaring lines became mandatory in permit conditions. It was the start of reducing seabird mortality to the current negligible levels we see today.

“This great success for seabirds was the result of industry, NGO, government scientists, managers and fishers’ collaboration, which was initially painful, but later proved to be a proud moment for all and I would like to believe that it is a standard which all role-players aspire to uphold,” she says.

“Also, the introduction of sea days for catching allocated quantum in the hake deep-sea trawl fishing sector was an achievement that stands out for me. This too was a collaborative effort by industry and government scientists as well as fisheries managers.”

While in her two year role of steering the Alliance, Dr Frantz says that the RFA will continue to play a leading role in implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries as well as demonstrating leadership in rebuilding relevant fish stocks, including that of bycatch species. She says that in some respects, this may require bold decisions about voluntarily implementing pioneering efforts.

“We are already seeing leadership demonstrated in some of the RFA-supported projects, like the real-time data capture on board fishing vessels, which has been talked about for many years. RFA members are now voluntarily taking this forward.  Research and fishery improvement projects – which are available on the RFA website – are also demonstrating leadership.


*Theressa Frantz has a PhD and MPhil degree in Marine and Environmental Law: University of Cape Town; MSc degree in Zoology: University of the Western Cape.

Click on the attachment below to find out more about her journey and her views on South African fisheries.


  1. Dr Theressa Frantz talks fisheries (566.5 KiB)