South Africa; the land of distinct ecosystems, incredible wildlife, winefields, load shedding, patriotic devotion to any national sports team and you will braai – no matter what the weather.
It’s also the land of an incredible 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) long coastline, the uniqueness of two oceans meeting at your doorstep, marine biodiversity beyond belief, and access to the most amazing, fresh seafood. Yet, South Africans are guppies when it comes to fish and seafood consumption (6.1 kg per person), especially in comparison to Europeans or North-Americans gobbling down respectively 24.35 kg per person in the EU and 30,7 kg per person in the USA every year.
For years, our methods used to produce food across industries have become increasingly industrialised and have developed systems which put ecosystems out of balance. This is especially true when it comes to the fishing industry, which is currently dominated by industrial fishing vessels that often use destructive fishing practices, and fish on a scale which is unsustainable and results in extensive damage to aquatic habitats and ecosystems. But here’s something you might not know: There’s hope! And it lies in one of South Africa’s best kept industry secrets; a local, responsible fishing industry that you can support and be proud of.
Today marks World Fisheries Day and we want to celebrate with full transparency
Fish and fishing play a significant role in South Africa; from their economic importance as well as folklore and mythology. In total, the fishing industry employs an estimated 28 000 people in the primary sector, while more than 80.000 people are employed in down- and upstream fishery industry.
Whereas we know and we’ve seen the destructive mega boats, swooping complete schools with a swoop of their nets, did you also know that not all fisheries and fishing methods are harmful for the ocean? There’s a particular, local style of fishing in South Africa that catches fish in balance with nature, in a way where fish stocks are not depleted, and there is little-to-no bycatch of non-target species because fishers can see what’s on their lines. Let us show you how you can enjoy your tuna knowing it’s been caught responsibly and sustainably.
Are you ready to meet these incredible, beautiful fishers and responsible local businesses in South Africa? Join our movement and help to change the future;
For The Oceans
Most wild caught tuna that’s available to you in stores, restaurants, and online delivery is caught with big, industrial boats which use a method of fishing known as ‘purse seine’. Purse seine vessels account for approximately 69% of all wild caught tuna in the world. However, they use huge nets and floating devices to catch the fish in such a way that whole schools of fish are extracted from the ocean at once. In this process, they’re also extracting all sorts of other species in those nets such as sharks, rays, and turtles. Unintentionally maybe, yet destructive for all species and marine life involved.
At the other end of the scale, there’s one-by-one wild caught tuna in South Africa. This method includes responsible pole-and-line, handline and troll techniques which are used by small-scale fishing boats mainly based around Cape Town and Hout Baai. It’s one hook, one man, catching one fish at a time. This one-by-one style of tuna fishing is the only method that is considered to be environmentally safe, socially responsible, and based on generations of tradition. Fishing one-by-one allows tuna species to flourish as these methods make it near-impossible to overfish. Furthermore, it reduces by-catch of marine life, helps to protect and restore biodiversity, and minimises plastic pollution in and around South African waters.
For South Africa
One-by-one tuna fishing is a way of life; it’s characterized by the seasons, battling the elements of nature, and a local, often family-based crew on smaller, more artisanal vessels. The fisher boats that you can spot going out from The Cape fish less days a year due to seasonality of the fishing as well as weather conditions. Tuna fishing season runs in spring/ summer from approximately October to December for catching yellowfin. In January / February, they disappear as yellowfin tuna are highly migratory fish. By the end of March to June, the yellowfin returns and it’s simultaneously the ‘long fin’ season; one-by-fishers tuna catch Bigeye tuna and Albacore. Because each pole or handline is manned by a single person, there are no nets dragging the ocean floor, thus causing reef damage and leaving other marine wildlife and ecosystems intact.
Social stability and job security in South Africa
This style of fishing brings income and recirculates wealth throughout the country. It contributes to local food security, poverty alleviation, and sustaining livelihoods. These one-by-one fisheries are characterised by local ownership, fishing closer to shore and for shorter lengths of time. This provides fishers with greater economic flexibility as they are given the opportunity to spend more time at home with their families, their kids, and experience an improved quality of life. Importantly, shorter lengths of time at sea amongst a local community promote humane, ethical and sanitary work conditions.
One-by-one fishing requires skill, strength, and dedication. It’s hard work and incredibly rewarding at the same time. One-by-one fishing is often a family tradition, securing jobs and family income, providing opportunities for themselves and their family members for generations.
Not only keeping local cultures and customs alive, the cultural aspect linked to their profession keeps these fishers tied to their community for long periods of time in which they earn, employ, and spend locally. This retains the accumulation of wealth in the area. It generates more jobs per tonne and it’s creating jobs in a country with high unemployment rates. These jobs don’t only come in the form of fishers and on-the-water-crew, but they’re represented throughout each node on the supply chain; such as local processing and distribution, to packaging and to selling and preparing this amazing tuna in local shops and restaurants.
South Africa is traditionally also a great net exporter. In 2017, the annual value of exports exceeded imports by USD 174 million, with imports valued at USD 424 million and exports at USD 598 million. There are not many countries in Africa that extract good value from tuna resources, but South Africa does. Where other countries allow other countries to fish in their national waters, South Africa has these one-by-one tuna tuna fishers that source, produce, and sell locally with an all-South African crew. With this, South Africa could be a great example for other African countries that could aspire to have a similar model rather than outsourcing natural resources to other fishing nations.
Long story short, one-by-one tuna fishing is South Africa’s best kept local industry secret, one that includes the local businesses and communities you’d be proud to support.
Choose your tuna
You might be eager now to find out who to turn to for this local, ethical tuna and what you can do with it. From high end exclusive cuisine such as Reuben Riffel and James Gaag (La Colombe) to affordable, delicious cans in your local Woolies. Find fresh, frozen, straight off the deck in the harbour at D’Angelo’s Fresh Fish Market, have it delivered to you to your doorstep by or find beautiful local tuna in cans, pouches, or preserved in beautiful jars, sometimes even seasoned with delicious herbs. We promise: there’s one-by-one caught tuna near you. Travel with us through South Africa and meet the responsible businesses and people associated with the one-by-one supply chain.
Woolworths’ vision is to be one of the world’s most responsible retailers and to achieve this, sustainability is a key driving force across our business. It not only influences every aspect of what we do, it also shapes our culture and defines who we are as an organisation. Woolworths implemented a dedicated seafood sustainability programme, “Fishing for the Future’ in 2008 to ensure that all our seafood is responsibly sourced for better food choices, thriving communities and sustainable oceans.
Greenfish is a local family-owned business that has fishing in their blood; it was founded by the two brothers Ryan and Andrew with the intention of providing the restaurant, hospitality and wholesale industry with high quality, seasonal and locally sourced fish and seafood products. They grew up as artisanal handline and tuna pole-and-line fishers and combined, they have 60 years of fishing experience. They do everything locally; fishing, hiring, and redistribution of wealth and resources directly in and around the Cape. They don’t stop there: their deep respect for and connection to the ocean is seen throughout all their activities and initiatives, from their turtle program to their eco rating system and even planting trees for the boxes of organic salmon they sell. Furthermore, they have their one-day-delivery service bringing fresh, locally caught seafood directly to your doorstep!
Blue Wave Fish Traders (BWFT) is a fresh and frozen fish distributing company that sources locally caught tuna from one-by-one fishing boats that catch in the Atlantic ocean around Cape Town and up the West coast; they source from local boats with local crew. These boats sell directly to Blue Wave Fish Traders who then distribute throughout South Africa to local retailers and restaurants. Tuna exported by BWFT from South Africa to countries abroad such as Spain, UK, and France means that the South African tuna is eaten all over the world. Furthermore, they have re-started the tradition of a fish market in the Silo district of Cape Town harbour where you can find ‘their’ tuna fresh off the boat – lookout for D’Angelo’s Fresh Fish Market right on the harbourside near the newly opened Silo museum.
The South African Tuna Association
The South African Tuna Association (SATA) was formed as a non-profit organisation in 1985 by a group of pole-and-line tuna vessel owners. It is one of the oldest and longest standing South African registered industrial bodies, in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act. SATA plays a pivotal role in supporting DFFE (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment) both locally and internationally with a variety of management methodologies geared towards ensuring the sustainable exploitation of tuna stocks. Today, the Association represents some 75 local pole-and-line vessel owners and operators and advocates for sustainable practices, particularly regarding South Atlantic albacore tuna, the fisheries traditional target species.
The Large Pelagic SMME Association
The Large Pelagic SMME Association is a recognised industry body in South Africa which represents the major players within the tuna pole-and-line industry from vessel owners, operators, processors, exporters and marketers alike, all of which are small-to-medium enterprises. The Large Pelagic SMME Association is committed to fishing for the future by practicing sustainable fishing methods whilst exercising the utmost care for the environment at all times.
Are you ready for the oppa-tuna-ty?
Dare to embrace tuna as your new best friend! Choose tuna on a regular basis, not leaving it for anniversaries or restaurants only. Embrace the powerful environmental, social, and economical benefits it brings to South Africa. To help you on your way, we are giving you two exclusive recipes from Reuben Riffel; one is made with fresh yellowfin tuna and one with canned albacore tuna!