South Africa's marine fisheries catches (1950–2010)

S. Baust, L. Teh, S. Harper, D. Zeller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The official fisheries catch data reported by South Africa to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO) is thought to focus on commercial catches, and exclude subsistence (i.e., small-scale non-commercial
fishing for self- and family-consumption) and recreational (i.e., small-scale non-commercial fishing for pleasure)
catches. The reconstruction of fisheries catches from 1950 to 2010 was undertaken, and combined official data
reported to the FAO with estimates of unreported catches for the recreational and subsistence sectors, illegal
artisanal catch, and discards from industrial fishing. Total recreational and subsistence catches were estimated to
be approximately 3,400 t∙year-1 and 1,600 t∙year-1 in the 1950s, respectively, and increased steadily to almost 6,400
t∙year-1 and 4,300 t∙year-1 in the 2000s (of which about 65% of the respective catches came from the South African
Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] in the Western Indian Ocean; FAO area 51). In comparison, domestic industrial
catches averaged 370,000 t∙year-1 in the early 1950s, peaked at 2.1 million t in 1968, and have been around 720,000
t∙year-1 in the 2000s. Reconstructed artisanal catches increased from about 45,000 t∙year-1 in the early 1950s to
42,000 t∙year-1 in the 2000s. Discards by the industrial sector totalled 3.6 million t from 1950 to 2010, making up
about 6% of total reconstructed catch. Almost all industrial catches were from South Africa's EEZ in the Southeast
Atlantic Ocean (FAO area 47). South African catches taken in Namibian waters during the South African occupation
of Namibia (1915–1990) were identified and assigned as South African flagged catches taken in Namibian waters.
These catches from Namibian waters totalled 18 million t from 1950 to 1990, and were on average 200,000 t∙year-1
in the 1950s before peaking at 1.6 million t in 1968, then dropping to 162,000 t∙year-1 in the late 1980s. Once
reported landings were adjusted for the spatially reassigned catches taken in Namibian waters, reconstructed total
catches for South Africa proper were 1.1 times the adjusted landings reported by FAO on behalf of South Africa.
Although reconstructed subsistence and recreational catches made up less than 1% of annual domestic commercial
catches, these sectors are of considerable socio-economic importance for a large fraction of South Africans. The
reconstruction of fisheries catches in these marginalized sectors emphasizes the necessity for political action in
support of new management measures, and for ensuring a sustainable and equitable use of ecologically, socially and
economically important marine resources in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFisheries catch reconstructions in the Western Indian Ocean, 1950-2010
EditorsF. Le Manach, D. Pauly
Place of PublicationVancouver
PublisherUniversity of British Columbia
ISBN (Print)1198-6727
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameFisheries Centre Research Reports


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