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Keywords:

  • cooperative research;
  • ecosystem risk assessment;
  • incentives;
  • market-based incentives;
  • responsible fisheries;
  • stakeholder participation

This paper examines the increasingly close interaction between natural and social scientists, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and industry, in pursuit of responsible ecosystem-based management of fisheries. South Africa has committed to implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Management advice stems from multi-stakeholder representation on government-led scientific and management working groups. In the hake Merluccius capensis and Merluccius paradoxus fishery, the primary management measure is an annual total allowable catch (TAC), the level of which is calculated using a management procedure (MP) that is revised approximately every 4 years. Revision of the MP is a consultative process involving most stakeholders, and is based on simulation modelling of projected probable scenarios of resource and fishery dynamics under various management options. NGOs, such as the Worldwide Fund for Nature in South Africa (WWF-SA), have played an important role in influencing consumers, the fishing industry and government to develop responsible fishing practices that minimize damage to marine ecosystems. Cooperation between industry, government and scientists has helped to improve sustainability and facilitated the meeting of market-based incentives for more responsible fisheries. Research includes ecosystem modelling, spatial analysis and ecosystem risk assessment with increasing research focus on social and economic aspects of the fishery. A four-year cooperative experiment to quantify the effect of trawling on benthic community structure is being planned. The food requirements of top predators still need to be included in the TAC-setting formulae and more social and economic research is needed. This paper also demonstrates how NGO initiatives such as Marine Stewardship Council certification and the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, a traffic light system of classifying seafood for consumers, have contributed to responsible fishing practices, increased ecosystem research and public awareness. This fishery appears to have a good future, provided that the monitoring, control and surveillance systems continue to function, TACs remain within ecologically sustainable limits and the effective collaboration between government, industry, scientists and NGOs continues to drive positive change.