Food For The Future - Business Media MAGS

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Food For The Future

In the six years since the South African government launched “Operation Phakisa” to accelerate development of the ocean-based economy, fishing yields have increased fivefold.

It’s a rare good news story for an ambitious programme, which many participants have helped to build successfully.

The Ocean Sciences Campus (OSC) at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, for example, is the first of its kind in Africa and the southern hemisphere with global, local academic, government and industry partnerships focused on fish yields. It directs much of its efforts towards aquaculture.

“New aquaculture development since 2014 (after the launch of Operation Phakisa) shows planned investments of up to R700-million, of which the public sector’s contribution is up to R200-million,” says Yusuf Adam, an advisor to the OSC.

Annual aquaculture production now stands at 20 million tons and has seen growth in stocks of existing farmed species such as abalone, mussels and oysters. New species under development include kob, catfish, salmon, ocean trout, urchins and algae.

The Coega Development Zone in the Eastern Cape, situated 20 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, was poised to start construction of an Aquaculture Development Zone (ADZ) in April 2020. “The site will be ready to receive the first aquaculture (freshwater aquaculture) investor by November 2020,” says Dr Keith du Plessis, project manager at the ADZ. “When fully subscribed, the 440-hectare ADZ could produce up to 30 000 tons of various fish products.”

The Coega Development Zone is also conducting a feasibility study to determine whether salmon could be farmed there, thereby reducing the amount of fish currently imported without changing consumer tastes. “South Africa imports more than 5 000 tons of salmon annually, therefore, the possibility of import replacement exists,” says Du Plessis.

“While aquaculture in South Africa is at a developmental stage, it has the potential to reduce poverty, decrease the reliance on wild fisheries, ensure food security, and create skills-based employment. The pre-feasibility study indicated that 5 000 jobs could be created through the development of the ADZ.”

Research and recovery of species

Building the ocean economy must be done sustainably, though, and set against wider global concerns about declining fish stocks. “We do ongoing monitoring within commercial fishing, small-scale fishing and recreational fishing,” says Kim Prochazka, director: resources research at the Chief Directorate Fisheries Research & Development in Cape Town.

Besides the analysis of data collected from fisheries, researchers at Fisheries Research & Development conduct their own surveys, which include hake and pelagic species. “Monitoring abundance and size of fish is an indicator of what’s happening in the fish population,” explains Prochazka.

“We analyse information yearly: how fisheries are doing and how we need to adjust what they are doing to respond to trends.”

There are success stories in improving stocks of once dwindling species. “The South Coast Rock Lobster recovery plan has been productive,” says Prochazka. “A recovery plan for deepwater hake has grown the resource over 15 to 20 years.”

She extends a plea to recreational fishers. “Each person doesn’t think that what they do impacts species, but if each of them keeps one undersized fish there is a consequence.

“There is huge denial by recreational fishers. We are all custodians of fish.”

Image: ©iStock - 959655236

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