Original Articles

The status of the South African beach-seine and gill-net fisheries


Initial estimates indicate that there are at least 7 000 fishermen active in fisheries using beach-seine and gill nets in South Africa, mostly (86%) along the West and South coasts. Those fishermen utilize 1 373 registered and 458 illegal nets and report an average catch of 1 600 tons annually, constituting 60% harders Liza richardsonii, 10% St Joseph shark Callorhinchus capensis and 30% "bycatch" species such as galjoen Dichistius capensis, yellowtail Seriola lalandi and white steenbras Lithognathus lithognathus. Catch composition by mass varies between 70, 74 and 90% L. richardsonii off the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape coasts respectively to 88% sardine Sardinops sagax in KwaZulu-Natal. Catch-per-unit-effort declines eastwards from 294 and 115 kg·net-day−1 for the beach-seine and gill-net fisheries respectively off the West Coast to 48 and 5 kg·net-day−1 off KwaZulu-Natal. Consequently, the fishery changes in nature from a largely commercial venture on the West Coast to an artisanal/subsistence fishery on the East Coast. Attempts to validate compulsory catch returns indicate that at least half the annual catch, notably bycatch, is not reported. Reasons for this indicate an unwillingness to declare prohibited species, perceived avoidance of the taxman, ignorance as to the importance of catch statistics, multiple licensing authorities and management inadequacy to police illegal catches and nets.

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