“The answer is ‘yes and ‘no’. There are many industries out there acting really responsibly and it’s about creating the incentive to do so,” WWF SA Responsible Fisheries programme manager Dr Samantha Petersen told News24.
She said that some industries were ignoring sustainable practices and that they posed a threat to fish stocks.
“There are still a large number of industries that are overharvesting; many of the fisheries resources internationally and locally, are over exploited.”
Calculation of the fishing resources is difficult because monitoring procedures are not in place, said Petersen, who won the UNEP/CMS Thesis Award on Migratory Species Conservation in 2008.
“How we calculate that is another significant challenge and I think it’s something that going to come up at the forum today [Wednesday].
“One of the key challenges is the complete collapse of the South African Fisheries Observer Programme – a key component in delivering the information required to effectively manage our fisheries resources,” she added.
Many in SA feel strongly about rhino poaching, but there are other less visible animals that don’t generate much public sympathy like the Riverine Rabbit, Giant Golden Mole, and the Samango monkey because they are not as “visible” in the public imagination.
“The fact that our marine resources are out of sight out of mind is often why we don’t capture the public’s imagination. Poaching is a significant challenge but in many cases the drivers are very different to the rhino, for example,” Petersen said, moments before her presentation at the Responsible Fisheries Forum in Cape Town.
The biggest challenge for us in South Africa is our inshore resources which are easily accessible from the coast and the state of many of our impoverished coastal communities is that they depend on these resources for their food security and their livelihoods.
Petersen said that poor socio-economic conditions often drive people in local communities into poaching, but she also conceded that the criminal syndicates exploit marine resources like abalone.
She argued that enforcement alone could not eliminate unsustainable fishing practices and that co-operative action was needed from all stakeholders in the industry.
“There’s been this over-reliance I believe on the regulatory system and compliance and enforcement being the only solutions. There’re limited resources that can be put into continuous enforcement. At the end of the day, what you need is the buy-in of the fishing industry to understand why these regulations are in place.”