Sustainable Fishing In The Industry

By Raine St. Claire

“If we wipe out the fish, the oceans are going to die. If the oceans die, we die. We can’t live on this planet with a dead ocean.”- Paul Watson. The organisations and individuals who work closely with fish and fishing are increasingly aware of the importance of the larger ecosystem to the health and dynamics of fish stocks. According to a report by the WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI), fisheries can harm marine environments if they are not managed appropriately.

The report, titled Small Fry, Big Impact, notes that people are making more informed seafood choices based on sustainable status than ever before, thanks to greater consumer awareness. The aim of the report is to monitor progress made by South Africa’s main seafood sellers in their efforts to create a sustainable seafood supply chain. It also reflects the “importance for the environment of procuring sustainable seafood and the importance of using the ecosystem approach to fisheries management.”

”The report emphasises the importance of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) management that seeks to protect and enhance the health of the marine ecosystem, on which life and human benefits depend. “This approach depends on balancing the diverse needs and values of both present and future generations. In many cases, fish targeted by a particular fishery are also caught by another fishery or can impact another fishery by affecting a component of the ecosystem, for example, the prey of another species. An EAF will need to be able to manage these interactions. If we wish to maintain the overall health of marine ecosystems, we need to reduce the impacts of fisheries on these systems as a whole. This will require an understanding of the trophic links, diets, and energetic requirements of different components of the ecosystem,” the report said.

Abalobi: a Glimmer of Hope for The Future 

Awareness about sustainable fishing is increasing, thanks to organisations working on the ground with fishing communities to educate them and their consumers about the importance of sustainable fishing. One such organisation is Abalobi, a nonprofit partnership between fishers and scientists. The South African-based organisation aims to safeguard small-scale fishing communities and foster their ocean stewardship while providing customers with more information about where their seafood originates from.

The organisation has developed an app that connects fishers with a digital marketplace where they register their catches and log precisely how, when, and where the fish originate.They state: “For the first time, small-scale fishers have a tool to demonstrate transparently that they are fishing sustainably, and in exchange, they receive a fair price for their catch. At the same time, these fishers are amassing a wealth of data that helps build a greater understanding of some of the most pressing challenges facing our oceans and coastal communities. “With the use of AbalobiI’s technology, fish populations are given a chance to recover. Initially, 60% of the fish logged on the app were species classified as “of concern”. 

Now, more than 90% are from ecologically resilient fish stocks. With 1,600 fishers already supported across 12 countries, the technology is easy to use and scale, requiring only a smartphone.” The incredible work of the organisation is recognised globally, and this year they are finalists for the Earthshot Prize, a global initiative that highlights environmental pioneers and their solutions with the aim of inspiring the world and promoting the mindset of urgent hope and action.


WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) works with different role players in the seafood value chain. Its outreach empowers and educates consumers, seafood suppliers and retailers, local fishermen, and the fishing industry to be informed about the science behind the sustainability status of various types of seafood, the environmental impacts of different fishing methods, and how to use this information to make informed decisions that benefit the oceans.

WWF-SASSI works to deter harmful fishing practices, including illegal fishing, overfishing, unintended bycatch, and habitat destruction. For those fisheries working on improving their practices, WWF supports them and the importance of using the ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

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