South Africa’s marine and coastal environment contributes significantly to the country’s economy in terms of employment, tourism and recreation. The commercial fisheries sector contributes ca. 0.5% of GDP, with earnings totaling R1 billion. South Africa’s 3,000km coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone service the country’s 21 commercial fisheries, which are managed by a stringent set of scientifically-based regulations; unfortunately enforcement of legislation is limited.
While many of South Africa’s key fish resources are well managed and in a healthy condition, many years of overexploitation and poor management have caused the abundance of other species to drop to dangerously low levels. It is estimated that 76% of global commercial fish stocks are exploited at or beyond sustainable levels and in South Africa this is mostly due to overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated activities, as well as destructive fishing methods, lack of scientific monitoring of fish stocks and poor management. In response to the major lack of awareness amongst South African consumers and retailers about which marine species are threatened, and the fact that many threatened species consistently appear on restaurant menus and in retail stores, the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was formed.
Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI)
The aim of SASSI is to improve consumer awareness of fish stocks through a wallet-sized pocket guide, which groups fish species into 3 colour-coded categories: Green – tuck in, Orange-think twice or Red - avoid completely. Consumers can also text the name of any fish to 079 499 8795 and receive an immediate response telling them the status of that species.
In addition to customer outreach SASSI trains and monitors restaurants and retailers. To date 32 restaurants, including Ocean Basket and John Doris chains, are being trained in correct species identification, sustainable seafood policy, species lists, traceability, labeling and consumer/staff awareness. Three out of five of the major retailers have committed to a Retail Charter and undergo four-monthly performance assessments.
SASSI, which is managed by WWF South Africa, is now supported by numerous partners, including Pick ‘n Pay, Iveri Payment Technology, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Two Oceans Aquarium, Ezemvelo-KwaZulu Natal Wildlife, SAIAB, Sea World at UShaka, Traffic, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Sharklife and PGW-Eat.