Worldwide the fishing industry faces a conundrum: how to satisfy the insatiable demand from a growing population, while protecting the very stock from unbridled exploitation that could destroy it.
It’s always going to be a tricky balancing act for governments to legislate whether in South Africa, North America, China or Europe.
The occasion of World Oceans Day, held on the 8th of June every year, presents an opportunity for Sea Harvest Strategic Services Executive, Madoda Khumalo, to reflect on the Group’s approach to sustainability and the influence it can exert as one of the largest players in the South African fishing industry.
“Sea Harvest is a leading producer and marketer of premium seafood products; its key species are Cape Hake, Shark Bay prawns, crabs and scallops, products that have become sought after in local and international markets.
“Cape Hake is caught off the west and south coasts of South Africa where the unpolluted, nutrient-rich water of the cold Benguela current sweeps up from the Antarctic. Shark Bay prawns, crabs and scallops are caught along the west coast of Australia and our key product brands are Sea Harvest (SA) and Nor-West Seafoods (Aus).
“Our core businesses, which are part of an overall industry – South African deep-sea hake fishery and Shark Bay prawn fishery – are both Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified, the gold standard for sustainable wild-caught fishing practices. Our certification is issued on a five yearly basis after a rigorous independent auditing processes. Annual audits are conducted to monitor our progress in addressing any shortcomings that could affect our MSC certification. Since joining the MSC we have had two five year renewals and the third, our current certification, extends to 2020.
“Complying with the MSC principles and guidelines for responsible and sustainable fishing practices allow us to display its distinctive, highly regarded and recognisable blue logo on our products. Consumers can take confidence that the product they are purchasing emanates from a company and fishery committed to sustainable and internationally accepted fishing practices.
“At a local level Sea Harvest, along with four other fishing companies, Birdlife South Africa and the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), is a founding member of the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) – a voluntary group concerned with the protection and sustainability of ocean eco-systems.
“One of the RFA success stories is the massive reduction in sea bird mortality – from 18 000 to 300 – by the introduction of bird-scaring devices called tory lines during fishing operations.
Other voluntary initiatives implemented by the industry is the reduction of seafloor damage by concentrating our efforts on only historically trawled areas.
“This commitment to sustainability is reinforced on a continuous basis from courses run at sea, to staff that man our fishing fleet. In addition to training staff in the complex nature of deep sea fishing techniques – safety and technical competence and procedures – we stress the need for and our commitment to a sustainable future for our industry.
“Sea Harvest owns and has access to 29 vessels – 14 fresh fish vessels and 15 factory freezer vessels. We processes and pack over 100 products for the local and international markets on board our factory freezer vessels, and at our two processing facilities in Saldanha Bay and Mossel Bay. We employ approximately 3 000 people and distribute products to 22 countries around the globe.
“When you operate in one of the most regulated industries, sustainability is a way of life and Sea Harvest leads by example to protect not only our livelihood but the eco-environment for future generations.”