Sunday, September 4, 2011

MSC Surveillance Report - South African Hake Trawl Fishery

The first MSC surveillance audit for the recently certified (2010) South African Hake trawl fishery has been completed by Moody Marine Ltd. and the report is now available on the MSC website.

The assessment is for both the inshore hake fishery on Mercluccius capensis, and the offshore fishery on Merluccius paradoxus.  The offshore fishery is the more important of the two but this stock has been in a severely depleted state since the early 1970s as a result of overfishing. 

Although fisheries on both stocks obtained a score of more than 80 under each of the three MSC principles, a condition was placed under Principle 1 for the offshore hake fishery.  This condition required that there should be improvements in stock status showing trends of recovery.

The Moody Marine team based their audit on the latest assessment by MARAM (Marine Resource Assessment and Management Group).  This is the consulting company contracted by the South African government to do the assessments and develop the management strategy. 

The latest MARAM assessment is not consistent with a recovery trend in spawner biomass for the offshore stock.  Spawner biomass is only at about 60% of the estimated BMSY management target and female spawning biomass has recently shown a declining trend. 

 The Moody team suggested that the continuing low spawner biomass indicated the need to develop a new, more effective, management strategy but concluded that there was nevertheless enough evidence that a recovery was underway for the fishery to pass the audit. 

It should be noted that this stock has been managed under various different management strategies (locally called operational management procedures) developed by MARAM since 1991, but all of them have proved to be ineffective in rebuilding the stock.

The certification of the South African offshore hake fishery as sustainable by MSC in 2010 and the passing of the first surveillance audit by Moody in 2011 is misleading.  Consumers should not be fooled by the MSC eco-label applied to products from this fishery.  These products are not from a sustainably managed fishery.  South African offshore hake remains severely depleted, there is no sign of significant recovery, and the current management procedure appears to be flawed and needs to be replaced by one that may be more effective.  

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