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South Africa increasing fish quotas, but phasing out foreign operators.

There'll be more fish to catch in South African waters this year, but only if you're a South African fisherman, Roger Williams, general manager-seafood marketing of Irvin & Johnson Ltd., told the International Seafood Conference.

South Africa is phasing out foreign quota holders in 1993, he reported. They'll get a mere 1,036 tons of the 145,000-ton Total Allowable Catch for hake, and they can forget about horse mackerel and sole altogether.

That 145,000-ton estimated hake quota for 1993 is up from 141,000 last year, while the 45,000-ton quota projected for horse mackerel remains the same - except that South African fishermen will get all of it, including the 3,000 tons allocated to foreigners in 1992. Sole quota is forecast at 900 tons, vs. 872 last year - with none of it reserved for foreigners.

Williams also reported that the Namibian hake biomass is currently at 350,000-400,000 tons, 40% of its pristine level before overfishing in the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to a strict management policy limiting fishing mortality to 20% of the biomass, the hake stock is now recovering - total allowable catch is projected at 110,000-120,000 tons for this year, vs. 87,200 last year and 60,000 the year before.

South African hake biomass, also depleted by past overfishing, has now recovered to about 750,000 tons, with the potential to reach 1.65 million tons, he said. With the fishing limits imposed by Namibia, the South African fishing effort has been concentrated more in its home waters. By-catch landings have doubled over the past decade, and now account for half the total groundfish landings.

For 1991, the by-catch included 50,324 tons of horse mackerel, 10,598 tons of ribbon fish and 3,313 tons of regular mackerel. Unfortunately, these species aren't worth much - and the species that are valuable are in short supply: viz. monkfish (5,871 tons), kingklip (1,956), angel fish (770) and sole (739). Kingklip catch used to average 3,500 tons, but long-lining virtually wiped out the species. Even with a ban on long-lining in 1990, it will take generations for kingklip to recover, Williams said.

You win some, you lose some. The increased by-catch of low-value species has cut into the industry's income; but on the other hand, recovery of the hake stock (which had sunk to 450,000 tons a few years ago) has improved the mix of the hake harvest: small (70-350 gram) fish account for only 20-25% of the catch now, vs. 70% in the 1980s. In a category once resource-driven, "the improved availability of larger fish has afforded marketers the opportunity to become more consumer focused by providing products to satisfy needs and requirements and thereby build the consumption of seafood," said Williams.

In the home market, it could really use some building: per capita consumption is only 2.7 kilograms a year, and most consumers don't know much about preparation. There has thus been an industry focus on products that emphasize convenience from basic fillets and the like to more sophisticated fare - battered, crumbed, microwaveable, in-sauce and co-extruded. "On the basis of personal surveys of the European market, it can be confidently stated that the variety and number of frozen product options available in the South African market exceeds that in Europe by a considerable margin," Williams remarked.

With the lifting of international trade sanctions, plus falling commodity seafood prices, the very technical skills and moderb equipment that have enabled South Africa to produce high quality value-added products are standing the country in good stead with the export market. Meanwhile, Namibia is trying to develop a shore-based processing capacity by offering companies that establish land-based plants favorable treatment on quotas plus a 200-rand a ton rebate on catch royalties (400 rands a ton for native vessels, 600 for joint-venture vessels and 800 for foreign vessels).
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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