The Responsible Fisheries Forum, hosted by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA), was held in Cape Town on the 13th of June with a specific focus on reviewing the organisation’s successes and challenges with a key objective of finding solutions to achieve an Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries (EAF) management in South Africa.
Delegates included officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); researchers from the University of Cape Town; various retailers; BirdLife South Africa; FishSA and other industry associations; a representative of the Marine Stewardship Council; and media.
Some of the successes and achievements of key projects undertaken by the RFA were presented: a Seabirds Energetics research project has shed light on the energy that African penguins draw from the ocean and the extent to which their survival has been impacted by the extraction of fish from the sea by the commercial fishing industry; a Bycatch 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, including the setting of precautionary catch limits for bycatch by DAFF for entire fleets; and 200 fishers have benefitted from a Responsible Fisheries Training Programme, which has resulted in better care and improved relationships with the ocean.
In discussing the way forward, the Forum 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 Dr 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 and RFA Chair, 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, which is aimed at promoting healthy marine systems that will continue to provide society with ecological, social and economic benefits. 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.
At the end of the Forum, the RFA committed to continuing its work to remain relevant, 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.
RFA members include the WWF-South Africa and four major fishing companies, namely, Irvin and Johnson (I&J), Oceana Group, Sea Harvest and Viking Fishing.
The Alliance has the following objectives:
- Promote and facilitate the sharing of information, expertise and competencies to effect responsible fishing practices.
- Influence policy and fishery governance.
- Develop the skills of fishers and fisheries managers to implement an EAF.
- Promote and implement independent high-quality research on the implementation of an EAF.
- Effective engagement with market mechanisms (e.g. Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, Marine Stewardship Council and retailers).
- Positioning responsible fisheries in the public space.
The Forum generated substantial media coverage (including articles in the Cape Times, Die Burger and Business Day) with an advertising value equivalent of more than R127,000.00