Last week, the hook published an article by the Fish site which took a look at how government corruption contributes to overfishing. This week we take look at how the private sector contributes to overfishing and the depletion of marine resources.

The sustainability of seafood protein food security in South Africa is threatened by a number of factors, notably overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch issues (unintentionally caught species by unselective fishing gear) and climate change (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2012).

“Overfishing is the greatest threat to ocean ecosystems today. Overfishing occurs because fish are captured at a faster rate than they can reproduce. Advanced fishing technology and an increased demand for fish have led to overfishing, causing several marine species to become extinct or endangered as a result.” (Darthmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, 2012).

South Africa has 22 fishing activities that are classified as commercial with 2 900 right holders and 1 788 vessels operating in the sector. The commercial fishing industry has impacted on various linefish species due to their over-exploitation.

For example the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that the status of many South Africa’s linefish species is particularly worrying, almost 70% of the commercial species is considered collapsed.

Commercial fisheries use modern technology and equipment methods to harvest fish. These methods include longlining, purse- seining, and trawling. All these fishing methods have an impact on the marine environment and in many cases are the causes of overfishing which leads to the collapse of marine species.

Demersal trawling (dragging) is a non-selective fishing method, yielding a high proportion of by-catch and causing extensive environmental degradation to the seabed. Long-line fishing is less destructive of the marine environment (although more dangerous to seabirds) by not affecting the seabed, targeting demersal trawl species more successfully and discards only a limited amount of by-catch (Statistic SA 2008).

Overfishing including illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing hurts the South Africa Fishing Industry. This is heightened by the lack of proper fisheries management by the state.

Despite attempts by various organisations to curb the issue of over exploitation and overfishing of marine resources, the trend still continues.

A dedicated, co-ordinated and integrated management approach to sustain the coastal ecosystems is required.

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