70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

By: Dr Judy Mann 

Do you really know where the fish that you eat comes from? Few of us in South Africa stop to think about where our delicious meal of fish and chips comes from. Most of the fish sold in restaurants and supermarkets comes from the large industrial-scale trawl and purse-seine fisheries on the southern and western Cape coast. Although the total volume of fish caught is substantially less, the East Coast is home to an incredible diversity of fisheries. The scientists of the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) have been working on many of these fisheries for a long time. There are over 20 different fisheries along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). These fisheries include the commercial fisheries, which provide formal employment; the traditional and/or subsistence fisheries, now called small-scale fisheries (SSF), which provide people with food and income; and the numerous recreational fisheries, which are by far the largest in terms of number of participants.

The commercial linefishery is one of the oldest fisheries in KZN and provides many restaurants and local fishmongers with familiar species such as slinger, soldier, englishman (red fish), geelbek and rockcods. These fish are caught off ski-boats operating along the coast from Port Edward to Cape St Lucia. 

Recreational fisheries include line-fishing from the shore, or off vessels such as kayaks or ski-boats, spearfishing and shellfish/invertebrate collecting. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) manage these fisheries and all recreational anglers must purchase a permit from the National Post Office. There are about 70 000 shore anglers in KZN, 20 000 boat anglers, 4 000 spearfishermen and about 18 000 shellfish collectors.

The small-scale fishery (SSF) was formally recognised in South Africa in 2012. SSF refers to the use of marine living resources on a full-time, part-time, or seasonal basis, to ensure food and livelihood security. A total of 35 SSF communities have been identified in KZN and they harvest both fish and marine invertebrates.