At 82 years of age, captain Noel Less still works a five-day week as a fishing gear specialist at Sea Harvest’s Viking Fishing Division in Cape Town harbour, South Africa.
Less is regarded as a legend of the South African deep-sea trawl fishery. With a burning passion for fishing, he spent two decades working as a top catching skipper and almost four decades advising and helping other skippers to hone their skills and use fishing gear effectively. His skills and experience have taken him to the fishing grounds of Argentina and New Zealand and he has worked with some of Europe’s top net builders and engineers.
Less’ 60-year career in fishing would not have been possible if the South African trawl fishery for hake were not sustainable. The fishery has been certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Standard since 2004 and was the first hake fishery in the world to meet this gold standard for fisheries sustainability.
The sustainability of the hake deep-sea trawl fishery – the most important industrial fishery in South Africa – is in the spotlight ahead of World Fisheries Day which is celebrated globally on 21 November.
This year, the MSC has partnered with South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) to recognise the rewards of sustainable fishing. The two organisations have released a short film called “Together we fish for the future” to demonstrate that to make a real change and contribute to the health of our oceans, it takes the collaboration of industry partners, seafood businesses and civil society.
Noel Less is one of the characters in the film. Others are Leon Henry, skipper of a hake fishing vessel, Sveinn Jonsson; Belinda Le Roux, who monitors and manages the logistical needs of a large fishing fleet; Fisokuhle Mbatha who works as a research assistant with SADSTIA and is studying for a doctoral degree; Melanie Williamson, a director of a fisheries observer programme; Valda Jumat, production supervisor in a fish processing plant; and Prince Mboso, who supports fish processing operations as a forklift driver. They represent an estimated 12,400 people who work in the South African trawl fishery for hake and associated businesses.
“The rewards of a sustainable fishery cannot be overstated,” said Felix Ratheb, chairman of SADSTIA and CEO of Sea Harvest. “The hake deep-sea trawl fishery delivers R8.5 billion to the economy every year. Provided it continues to be managed diligently in terms of scientific recommendations, the fishery will continue to generate these benefits for South Africa for generations to come. That is what sustainability means.”
“With more than a third of the world’s fish stocks overfished today, the need to protect our oceans has never been more urgent,” said Michael Marriott, Programme Director for MSC in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. “Around the world, the MSC and partners are raising awareness of the lengths sustainable fisheries go to safeguard the oceans, and we are really proud to say the South African hake trawl fishery is up there with the world’s best.”
The MSC, responsible for the world’s most widely used sustainable seafood ecolabel, is an international non-profit organisation which sets globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and the seafood market. It is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards.
South Africa’s trawl fishery for hake is one of only two fisheries in Africa to have met the rigour of the MSC Fisheries Standard – along with 500+ others making up 15% of the global wild marine harvest. The MSC ecolabel assures that the seafood comes from a sustainable and well-managed fishery.
In the short film released on YouTube and via social media platforms on this World Fisheries Day, the featured characters each express a word of thanks to consumers for supporting sustainable fisheries through their purchasing choices. When you buy seafood with the blue MSC label on pack, you’re helping to protect oceans, livelihoods and fish for the future.
Together, let’s do what it takes to ensure there’s seafood for future generations. Learn more by visiting the SADSTIA and MSC social media channels (#ChooseTheBlueFish):
17 November 2022