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Taking stock of bycatch

  • Post category:RFA News

Where there is trawl fishing, there is incidental bycatch of various species – often in large quantities. Through a joint project, bycatch will now be assessed in one of South Africa’s biggest fisheries.

Over the next three years, WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) and the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) will be working together on a project to make a positive impact on 12 key non-target species (or bycatch species) caught alongside hake in the offshore hake trawl fishery, including kingklip, monkfish, angelfish, Cape dory, gurnard, horse mackerel, jacopever, octopus, panga, ribbonfish, snoek and biscuit skate.

The South African Offshore Trawl Bycatch Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) was launched in mid-2016 and is based on a Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) report aimed at understanding how to improve the sustainability status of the hake industry’s bycatch species.

Although many non-target species play critical ecological roles, and in some cases critical economic roles for fishers, the management of such species has traditionally taken a backseat to that for Cape hake, the primary target of the deep sea trawl fishery.

Jessica Greenstone, the Marine Science and Policy Lead for WWF-SA, said, “This project also highlights the synergies that exist between industry, government and civic organisations that are working together to accomplish more than any one party can on its own.”

Skippers and fishing crews on the 53 participating trawlers will inter alia be required to improve their reporting of catches at the drag level. This will help scientists at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) extract precise catch data for the priority non-target species landed by the fishery and facilitate development of stock assessments.

An intended spin-off for SADSTIA members is that certain species are anticipated to move off the Red-list or Orange-list of WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) and towards a WWF-SASSI Green-listing.

It is 12 years since the South African hake trawl fishery was first certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council, and in that time the industry has lived up to the conditions of certification and worked hard to improve the sustainability of its practices.

“This latest partnership with WWF-SA is another important step towards improving the environmental footprint of the fishery. We have to pay attention to these non-target species and improve their management for the long-term health of our oceans,” said Tim Reddell, Chairman of SADSTIA and Director of Viking Fishing.

During the FCP, WWF-SASSI will use an “improvement icon” to indicate that an improvement project is underway. This enables WWF-SASSI participating retailers, restaurants and suppliers who have made commitments to sell sustainable seafood – as well as to support fisheries that are under improvement – to easily identify which species are part of this FCP. The “improvement icon” will also appear on the main WWF-SASSI consumer-facing tools, including the WWF-SASSI mobile app, website and printed pocket cards.

The RFA report mentioned in this article is attached below and more information on the FCP can be found on the SADSTIA website here:



  1. RFA Offshore Trawl Byctach Project Report (1.2 MiB)
    Improving the WWF-SASSI sustainability rating of key non-target species from the hake offshore trawl sector