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Hake fishery shows MSC's economic and environmental benefits

South African hake. (Photo Credit Credit: Rob Leslie/Deon Durholtz)
Click on the flag for more information about South Africa SOUTH AFRICA
Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 01:40 (GMT + 9)

A decade after having obtained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), South African hake fishery has shown evidence that sustainability can provide long-term economic gains.
Some of the long-lasting benefits that MSC certification of this fishery is the fact that 12,000 jobs have not been lost within the fishing industry and the expansion of export markets worth USD 187 million.
“The fishing industry is certainly aware of the market benefits that have resulted from MSC certification. We are also very proud of the environmental improvements we’ve made. Being able to demonstrate our work through MSC certification means that we can ultimately pass the market rewards throughout the entire trawling family," secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) Roy Bross commented.
This certification has contributed to closer cooperation between scientists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry in pursuit of responsible ecosystem-based management of fisheries.
A recent study by some of the leading marine scientists in South Africa, published in The Journal of Fish Biology, found that the conditions attached to MSC certification have led to increased ecosystem research and mitigation -- including addressing challenges facing this sector: the effect of trawling on bottom habitats, seabird bycatch, finfish by-catch and aspects of stock assessment.
The improved fishing practices as a result of MSC certification have led to major environmental improvements such as a 90 per cent decline in seabird mortalities, the preservation of natural refuges for hake and better cooperation between government managers, scientists and the fishing industry.
And opportunities for diversification to non-traditional markets such as the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia, where buyer commitments to sustainable sourcing have often been the driver, have been created.
As to the significant environmental improvements, the introduction of bird-scaring lines has resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in seabird mortalities, and up to a 99 per cent reduction in accidental albatross deaths in South Africa’s hake trawl fishery.
Furthermore, a condition on the certification led to the discovery that each year around 10,000 seabirds were being killed accidentally and BirdLife South Africa recommended the use of bird-scaring lines to address this problem, and in collaboration with the fishing industry, and with support from the government, conducted scientific research into the effectiveness of this measure.
“We’ve worked closely with the certified fishery to demonstrate that avoiding seabird by-catch is good for the environment and good for business. MSC certification has certainly been instrumental in the successes we’ve seen,” Bronwyn Maree, who leads the Albatross Task Force of BirdLife South Africa points out.
As one of the improvements required to maintain MSC certification, SADSTIA initiated research that used the best available data to chart the trawling grounds, including historically intensively trawled areas. This information has been used to "ring fence" the trawl grounds to prevent damage to lightly trawled areas and to preserve natural refuges for hake.
In addition, pioneering research is also being conducted in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 nautical miles off the west coast of South Africa, where the trawl industry have agreed to stop fishing in certain areas for a period of at least 4 years to monitor ecosystem recovery in areas of closure.
The Benthic Trawl Experiment is a joint initiative between the fishing industry, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), the University of Cape Town (UCT), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). It further highlights the collaborative approach being taken by the fishing industry to improve their environmental impacts and meet certification conditions.
“The MSC’s vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come, “ concluded Martin Purves, MSC Southern African Programme Manager.

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