SA’s supermarket chains were becoming increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining the health of SA’s, and the world’s, fish stocks and would soon demand Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation for the fish products they sold, the World Wide Fund for Nature SA (WWF SA) said yesterday.
If the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is unable to retain MSC-accreditation of SA’s deep-sea trawler-caught hake stocks, which is under review, this will complicate South African retailers’ plans — and in some cases promises — to provide sustainably caught fish to their consumers.
SA risks losing out on the European and part of the US hake export market, estimated to be worth half SA’s total R2,89bn-a-year deep-sea hake market.
“Absolutely, our supermarkets want that (accreditation), and they mean it. It’s a trend worldwide ,” Tim Redell, chairman of Fish SA, an umbrella body for fishing companies in SA, said yesterday.
WWF SA seafood market transformation programme manager John Duncan said South African retailers’ push for sustainably caught fish was “really exciting.… Our retailers are being very proactive”.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesman Selby Bokaba said the department was “moving with speed” to reinstate SA’s MSC-required annual observer programme, through which monitors go out to sea to determine the size of SA’s hake stock, and how much can be caught sustainably.
The MSC is to deliver a report on July 9, indicating whether SA stands to lose accreditation.
The deep-sea trawler-caught hake stock is SA’s only MSCaccredited stock, but Mr Duncan said WWF SA was working with fishing companies to gain MSC accreditation for SA’s other fish stocks.
Mr Bokaba said the department had set the end of next month as a deadline for reinstating the observer programme that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson suspended after a dispute over tenders with a company that would have organised the cruise.
Mr Redell said: “If we lost MSC, you may find our retailers would be prepared to take a step back as long as we got it back in two to three years, but not Europe. If we lose MSC, Alaska or New Zealand will quickly fill that space.”
Pick n Pay marketing and sustainability director Bronwen Rohland said: “The real one for us is MSC. We go by that labelling and we are working with our suppliers to get more and more product certified and labelled.”
Pick n Pay last year became the first African retailer to set itself a deadline — 2015 — by which it would sell only sustainably caught or farmed fish. Others could follow suit.
This year, Woolworths set itself a target of ensuring that every product it sold from 2020 would have “at least one sustainability attribute”, said the retailer’s sustainability head, Justin Smith.