The South African coastline covers more than 3 200 km, linking the east and west coasts of Africa. South Africa’s shores are particularly rich in biodiversity, with some 10 000 species of marine plants and animals having been recorded.
The productive waters of the west coast support a variety of commercially exploited marine life, including hake, anchovy, sardine, horse mackerel, tuna, snoek, rock lobster and abalone.
On the east coast, squid, linefish and a wide range of intertidal resources provide an important source of food and livelihood for coastal communities. Marine life that is not harvested, such as whales, dolphins and seabirds, is increasingly recognised as a valuable resource for nature-based tourism.
The South African fishing industry, which was once concentrated in the hands of a few, largely white-owned companies, has undergone intensive transformation over the past few years.
South Africa has a well-established fishery sector and is a net exporter of fishery products. However, most of South African fisheries are considered to be fully utilised and high-value fisheries such as abalone, prawns and linefish are largely overexploited.
The country also has a well-developed fisheries management system and is one of the leading countries in the implementation of an ecosystem approach for fisheries management. South Africa plays an important role internationally, in the regional fisheries management organisations and regional programmes such as the Benguela Current Commission and other related programmes.
The programme aims to promote the equitable and sustainable management and efficient use of marine living resources.
The South African coast provides substantial opportunities for economic and social development. However, it is a resource at risk from inappropriate developments, pollution, poaching and over use.The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to look at the economic prospects for marine culture, namely the husbanding and harvesting of sea plants.
The department plans to reduce the degradation of the marine environment through policies that promote conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources. It also aims to restore and maintain productive capacity and biodiversity of the marine environment and protect human health.
The projected increase in demand for high-end fishery products provides an opportunity for substantial increases in aquaculture production.
South Africa’s commercial fishery industry is valued at about R2 billion annually and employs about 27 000 people.
The total annual fish production from marine fisheries is more than 600 000 t. Given the market trends, South Africa’s environmental potential for aquaculture and the state of development of its industry, production could grow from the level of 3 543 t (worth R218 million) to more than 90 000 t (worth R2,4 billion) over the next 10 to 20 years.
The fishing industry has an annual turnover of about R80 billion and contributes 0,5% to the gross domestic product (GDP).
In 2010, a policy review process was developed and implemented for fishing rights allocations in the commercial sector. A strategy was also put in place for abalone and hake fishing.