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Fishery showcase: South Africa

IPNLF shines a spotlight on the South Africa pole-and-line tuna fishery, its history and its traceability standards

On the southernmost tip of the African continent lies South Africa, rich in natural beauty on land and at sea, and also home to a vibrant pole-and-line tuna fishery. The fishery dates back to the late 1970s, and traditionally targeted yellowfin in the waters around Cape Town before they moved further offshore in 1980. Today, the fleet targets albacore up to 1000km off the South and West coast, catching approximately 3,400 metric tonnes annually. The fleet is comprised of vessels of ranging size, the smallest being approximately 10m, and largest 26m in length. Due to the differences in size, these vessels can undertake trips of varying length, from a few days to a few weeks. Collectively, today’s pole-and-line fleet in South Africa is comprised of over 130 active vessels. 

The fishery complies with both local legislative laws and international best practise, making it one of the most well-regulated fisheries in the world. In support of the development of responsible practices and management, the South African Tuna Association (SATA) and the Large Pelagic SMME Association have been promoting responsible practises and advocating for improved management for the tuna fishery. These associations represent the majority of the South African fleet, and are both IPNLF Members.

Traceability is at the heart of the South African pole-and-line fishery, and both SATA and Large Pelagic SMME implement rigorous practices that enable their customers to trace tuna all the way back to the vessel.  

Upon landing, each and every batch of tuna offloaded is allocated with a specific code relevant to the name of the fishing vessel and the date of catch. This code then forms the basis for traceability and all communication regarding that batch of fish with the potential to follow it throughout the supply chain. Transshipment is not permitted at sea further strengthening the fishery’s commitment as a fully verifiable pole-and-line tuna source. 

The catch is landed and exported to customers in Europe and the USA. To increase customer confidence, each batch undergoes a physical inspection and is sampled for levels of histamine and heavy metal.

Teamed with new Members SATA and Large Pelagic SMME, IPNLF is working to amplify the voice of these responsible fisheries and the supply chains supporting them, enhancing their market potential, and strengthening their position at international management meetings.