The WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, SASSI, has updated its green, orange and red lists to indicate what we can and can’t, or shouldn’t, eat when it comes to seafood in South Africa.

Assessments were done last year and SASSI has updated its seafood guide for consumers.

Here is the good news:

Yellowtail: still green-listed, still delicious
  • Hake (Merluccius capensis) and kinglip (Genypterus capensis) caught by the demersal longline sector has been green-listed (best choice). Kinglip caught by the offshore demersal trawl sector is still listed as orange (think twice).
  • Carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona) and slinger (Chrysoblephus puniceus) caught in the traditional linefishery moved from the orange list to the green list.
  • Hottentot (Pachymetopon blochii), snoek (Thyrsites atun) and yellowtail (Seriola lalandii) caught in the commercial linefishery remain on the green list with positive indications of stock status.
  • First-time WWF-SASSI assessments of white mussel (Donax serra) and Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) hand-collected in KwaZulu-Natal resulted in a green listing.
  • East Coast rock lobster (Panuliru homarus) fished in the Eastern Cape only improves its prior orange-listing to a green-listing.

Not all of the news is good and the updated assessments also highlight some of the major sustainability concerns facing the fishing industry

Geelbek has moved from the orange to the red list (don’t buy). Photo courtesy SASSI/SAIAB
  • Geelbek (Atractoscion aequidens), also known as Cape salmon, and silver kob (Argyrosomus inodorus) moved from the orange to the red list (don’t buy) as their stock levels have declined to very low levels despite limitations placed on the traditional linefishery. Fishing pressure continues to be too high for these species, both of which are caught in multiple fishing sectors such as the commercial linefishery, inshore trawl, recreational fishery and gill net fishery.
  • Another cause for concern is the downgrade from the green list to orange list for horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis) caught in the midwater trawl fishery, which was downgraded due to uncertainty regarding its stock status and concerns around the management of the fishery.
  • Abalone (Haliotis midae) has also shifted from the orange list to the red list due to declining stock levels primarily driven by poaching, highlighting the urgent need to address this scourge.
  • While the West Coast rock lobster (Jasus lalandii) assessment is still in the process of being updated, this species is also facing a potential downgrade from the orange list to the red list due to similar concerns around illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. The West Coast rock lobster’s status – currently orange – is under a draft assessment by SASSI, which aims to list the local delicacy as “red”. The 60-day public comment period is now open, after which DAFF will also make comments before an assessment can be finalised.
  • Cape rock oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) caught along our South Coast have received an orange listing, reflecting concerns surrounding its stock status.

About demersel improvements

Demersal longlines refer to fishing that occurs on or along the sea floor, as opposed to pelagic longlines, which hang near the surface of water.

The improved status of the demersal longline species – hake and kingklip - is the result of a collaborative Fishery Conservation Project (FCP) between WWF-SA, the South African Hake Longline Association, and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), with assistance from CapMarine and BirdlifeSA.

Through the FCP, which began in 2013, there have been significant improvements in both the understanding and management of the demersal longline sector’s ecosystem impacts. Improved monitoring of catches, the development of a seabird bycatch mitigation plan, and responsible fisheries training for fisher participants, were other components of the FCP.

Traditional linefisheries

West Coast rock lobster's assessment is currently under review. It may move from the orange to the red list. 

Carpenter stocks have experienced a rapid recovery in recent years and continue to improve, which has been attributed to the substantial decrease in fishing effort allowed by DAFF. According to the WWF [PDF], “fishing effort” defines “the amount of effort – vessels, fishermen or hours – applied to a fishery.”

This decrease in effort came into effect in the early 2000s after the collapse of many linefish stocks.

While slinger populations have benefited from the decrease in effort, there is also evidence that they have benefited from the implementation of no-take/limited access marine protected areas (MPAs) along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

How do I know if the fish I’m about to order or buy is sustainable?

The best way to ensure that your meal is SASSI compliant is to use any of SASSI’s resources:

1. FISHMS

Simply type the name of the seafood species into a text message and send it to 079 499 8795 to receive information on the status of that species straight away. Save this number on your phone! 

2. THE SASSI APP

The easy-to-use app allows you to check the sustainability of your seafood choice in real time. It’s free on Android, Blackberry 10 and iOS. 

3. THE SASSI POCKET GUIDE

Download the latest pocket guide here [PDF].

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