South African hake fishery retains MSC cert

The release of the independent certifier’s annual surveillance report for South Africa’s hake trawl fishery has confirmed that it will retain its Marine Stewardship (MSC) certificate in sustainability.

All certified fisheries have to undergo an annual surveillance audit, carried out by an independent assessment team, to check that MSC standards are consistently attained.

The hake trawl fishery, targets predominantly shallow water hake on South Africa's South Coast and deep water hake on fishing grounds extending from the Namibian border southwards along the Agulhas fringe.

It was the first hake fishery in the world to be certified with the MSC Environmental Standard for Sustainable Fishing back in 2004.

The surveillance report notes that the most recent stock assessment shows an improvement in deep water Cape hake levels above initial recovery objectives. Progress was also noted in addressing bycatch issues in the inshore fishery - by the establishment of a forum which will instigate mitigation plans.

The MSC’s South Africa Programme Manager, said: "Certification has led to a number of environmental benefits such as the rebuilding of stocks, reductions in seabird interactions with fishing gear and improvements in the management of bycatches.”

Though satisfied that the fishery has the requisite processes in place to ensure long-term sustainability, the assessment team did raise questions over the adequacy of current observer coverage – namely staff and finances.

Further concerns about the lapse of the Government’s Offshore Resource Observer Programme also led the reviewers to generate new conditions which will be reviewed at the third surveillance audit in March 2013.

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