The World Wide Fund for Nature Conservation (WWF) intends to place West Coast Rock Lobster (WCRL) on their Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) Red List. We spoke to Jessica Greenstone from WWF to tell us what the listing means.

According to Greenstone, the SASSI is a global initiative that links up with other similar initiatives worldwide in an effort to conserve and protect our marine resources for future generations.

It is basically an initiative that engages the end users of marine resources, namely the consumers not to buy and consume resources that are endangered and whose continued consumption will lead to a complete collapse of such marine resources.

“Our intended listing of the WCRL on SASSI as red is aimed at consumers and retailers,” said Greenstone.
She said that they are informed by the data supplied by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) research into the species.

“All the alarm bells are going off when it comes to the WCRL said Greenstone.

The issues that they look at for the alarm bells to go off include:

  • That the species have a hard time reproducing,
  • the biomass is below exceptional circumstances, it is below 2.5%
  • Area 7 has already been closed due to fish stock being too low
  • Fishing mortality rate, over-fishing
  • Eco-system effect – how fishing gear to catch the species impact on other species

Greenstone said that in the WCRL species there is a great prevalence of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing going on, and that especially the juvenile fish are targeted, which can lead to the wiping out of future stocks as the species are not afforded the opportunity to reproduce.

She said that poaching is a big problem, and at the moment there is a lack of a comprehensive report on poaching.

Greenstone said that WWF is of the opinion that the WCRL stock can be revived and that it can be brought back to sustainable levels, if a comprehensive management for the stock is put in place, and that they have already engaged DAFF in this regard.

“A positive series of workshops have been co-hosted by DAFF and WWF and that a four year conservation project, from April 2016 to April 2020 is getting off the ground.”

As part of the project, a fishery management plan will be developed to regulate the effort to bring the species to a sustainable level.

She said that the plan does not call for a change in the TAC/TAE of the species, but rather to look at other mechanisms like:

  • limiting the sea days
  • better quantify IUU,
  • Trace-ability scheme which will limit the entry of poached products to the market
  • Training for Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) staff within DAFF
  • Roll-out of Abalobi – give fishers a new tool to help with data on stock, and also to check if Abalobi will work in other fishing sectors beside the small scale fishing sector
  • Check what has been sold against what has been caught

The WCRL has not been listed as Red yet, which will be a message to consumers and retailers: ‘don’t buy and don’t sell.’

This will make it difficult for the suppliers of WCRL to sell their product, but will it affect the small-scale fishers who go out to sea to catch the WCRL.

In the beginning it might not because they sell their WCRL on to the suppliers, but in the long run, as more consumers and retailers heed the SASSI call, the demand for WCRL might dwindle.

Greenstone feels that since they will not be targeting the legal fishers, and a four year management plan is in place, small-scale fishers should not have a problem.

Fishers and the general public can still give input into the listing of WCRL, and their comments were accepted until 5pm, June 7 2016.