CAPE TOWN: South African has exported almost all its local catch of its sea food in foreign markets due to attraction of its premium price and most of the calamari eaten in South Africa has imported, this emerged in a report released by World Wide Fund for Nature at a symposium held under the auspices of the WWF, its Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) and the Marine Stewardship Council here the other day.
The report said: “Similarly, much of the hake consumed by South Africans between 2000 and 2010 was imported, with more than 95 percent of the imported volume coming from Namibia. In terms of prawns consumed in South Africa, 62 percent originated from India in 2010, with volumes also from Mozambique and Thailand.”
It found the South African market was generally poorly equipped to address seafood sustainability challenges.
“Of outlets interviewed, 57 percent indicated that they were not familiar with the laws applicable to seafood trade in South Africa and 46 percent had never been inspected by compliance officials.
“Interestingly, a quarter of the respondents stated that they used the WWF-Sassi consumer guide to determine which species were illegal to sell.”
Speakers at the symposium said the South African hake fishing industry had benefited from proper sustainability certification through improved markets and the greater demand and higher prices that come with it.
The symposium focused on the “journey towards sustainability in the South African market” for seafood products and also on small-scale fisheries and fishery improvement projects.
Sustainability issues included catch limits, the survival status of target species, the reduction of bycatches and the prevention of collateral environmental damage such as seabird deaths and seabed destruction.
Public awareness was central to the issue of sustainable fisheries and products, as the buying public had to know how to buy the right products, speakers said.
Worldwide in 1960, the average consumption of fish for each person was 10kg a year, while in this year, it was up to 19kg a year, said Stephanie Rainier, retail officer of the WWF.
While this consumption for each person increased, the world population had also increased enormously and this continued to put pressure on marine resources, she said.
Of all the world’s fisheries, 61 percent were fully exploited, 29 percent were over-exploited and 10 percent under-exploited.
The South African fishing industry caught about 624 million kg of fish, of which 340 million kg was used for animal feed. The balance ended up on local and export markets for human consumption.
Cindy Jenks, compliance manager of Pick n Pay, said sustainability compliance certification was good business.
“Consumer awareness of sustainable fisheries and seafood products is growing and consumers are also buying more fish than before. That is clear from our sales figures,” she said. “In the process, retailers are held responsible for providing the right products and, as a result, 87 percent of the seafood sold by us already meet the 2015 standards set by Sassi.”
Fisheries economics researcher Philippe Lallemand said for a fishing company to meet the conditions for proper certification required, the management of its activities had to be improved.
“The hake industry’s certification in 2004 and recertification in 2010 allowed it to gain much improved markets internationally, compared to other southern African industries such as Namibia and industries in South America that were not certified,” he said.
“Certified products had markets in northern Europe where certification is required and prices are much higher.
“The industries that were not certified became less competitive and fought for markets in southern Europe where prices are lower and competition from aquaculture much stronger.”