Targeted species are anchovy and sardine, managed by the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) set by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) using their Operational Management Plan (OMP). The TACs allocated for anchovy and sardine vary from year to year depending on the abundance of the adult biomass as determined by November acoustic surveys. The anchovy TAC has been good in recent years; however, the sardine resource is in a naturally poor state with TAC’s decreasing year on year.
SAPFIA supports the responsible management of the fishery, and has been an active participant in the Island Closure Experiment (ICE) which was initiated in 2008 to determine whether fishing in the vicinity of breeding islands has an effect on the African penguin. Recent results of ICE based on international peer review recommendations should be made available to managers in order for them to make informed trade-off decisions. These results, which show both positive and negative benefits, indicate at best that the closure of islands to fishing will have a negligible positive effect on penguin population numbers, whilst having a significant socio-economic impact on the South African economy.
It is unlikely that fishing has reduced food availability such that it is limiting the penguin population because (a) the proportion of pelagic fish biomass harvested in South Africa is low compared to small pelagic fisheries elsewhere in the world and (b) the stock biomass is at 60-80% of its potential unfished level. These findings are based on the DFFE biannual hydracoustic surveys carried out by the research vessel, the RV Africana.
The conservative and sound management of the small pelagic resource is due to adherence to science by DFFE, backed up by a management procedure approach which is line with modern scientific advice further bolstered by regular international peer reviews of the science underlying the management.