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Deep sea trawling industry marks historic 50-year milestone

THE South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) which represents companies engaged in the catching, processing and marketing of Cape hake, marks its 50th anniversary in March.

The anniversary comes just six months after the conclusion of a lengthy and demanding rights allocation process.

This process saw the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) allocate 15-year rights to the fishery, increasing the number of rights holders from 33 to 37. 

In October 2023, SADSTIA welcomed the conclusion of the process, saying it would usher in a period of stability that will enable rights holders to invest, modernise and protect jobs. 

SADSTIA Chairman, Innocent Dwayi.

Reflecting on the 50-year milestone, SADSTIA Chairman, Innocent Dwayi, said that the deep-sea trawling industry is today globally admired and locally valued as a jewel in the crown of the South African fishing industry. 

The fishery contributes an estimated R8,5 billion rand to the South African economy annually and supports approximately 12 400 jobs, mostly in the Western Cape, but also in the Eastern Cape.

“Ours was the first hake fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable and well-managed by the Marine Stewardship Council which is widely recognised as the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for sustainable wild-caught seafood,” said Dwayi.  

The South African trawl fishery for hake has been certified four times by the MSC: in 2004, 2009, 2015 and 2021. Over time, the MSC standard has become more stringent and the conditions of certification have become more demanding; this means that the fishery is meeting increasingly tough environmental targets. 

A study conducted in 2016, determined that the MSC certification has enabled SADSTIA members to create new export markets in northern Europe  where there is a high degree of consumer awareness of seafood sustainability. This has helped to sustain the value of the trawl fishery

Remarkably, SADSTIA members have achieved these gains at a time of fundamental structural change: whereas in 1992 there were no black-owned rights holders in the fishery, today the DFFE estimates 86% of rights are held by black-owned companies. 

“The members of our association are very diverse. Some are small new entrants, whereas others are large, established companies with decades of experience in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery. Many of our members are themselves diversified and hold rights in other fisheries.”

“Some companies supply the local market, usually the food service market, while others are geared towards the export market, supplying it with value-added retail products. Meeting the needs and expectations of small, medium and large members is not easy and at times it seems impossible, but the fact that SADSTIA is celebrating its 50th anniversary is indicative of the strength and depth of the association.”

Dwayi emphasises the importance of SADSTIA’s relationship with government, saying it collaborates with the DFFE on a wide range of matters, from the science-based management of the deep-sea trawl fishery, to its administration, including the issuing of permits, the regular inspection of vessels and factories and the auditing of management activities by the MSC.  

Currently, about 98% of rights holders in the deep-sea trawl fishery for hake are members of SADSTIA and the Association is working hard to achieve 100% membership, he added. 

“In the past there were perceptions that SADSTIA is an association for bigger companies, but if you look at the current executive committee, you will see that small, medium and big businesses are represented. We want to make sure that we build SADSTIA into a strong association which will cater for all the sizes and types of businesses in the hake deep-sea trawl fishery.”

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