SASMIA NPC is the officially recognised industrial association that collectively represents commercial rights holders, boat owners and traders in the South African squid fishery. Its primary purpose is to ensure, on behalf of its members, that the squid resource and fishery in South Africa is properly managed and controlled and that its sustainability is ensured.
The squid sector started in the early 1980’s when it was discovered that the local squid species was the same as that found in the Mediterranean and that there was a market for the local squid in Europe.
Within 5 years from 1981 to 1985 a fishery developed along the Southern Cape Coast, which by 1985 had reached the point where it was big enough to be registered as a commercial fishery.
The fishers who had been operating up to 1985 were audited and licensed and from 1986 onwards the jig fishery was officially licensed by the Fisheries Department.
Over the next few years the fishery continued to develop, with the initial vessels being mainly fresh fish vessels which went to sea for up to two weeks at a time and offloaded their fish on ice to land based factories, which then froze and packaged the fish, the bulk of which was then exported.
The quality of land caught fish was not as good as sea, as the chocolate colour released by the squid when being caught was not as vivid when kept on ice and only frozen much later.
In 1986 the first sea freezing vessels, Conquest and Endeavour, were converted to the squid and within the next 15 years the entire industry upgraded from wet fish vessels to sea freezing vessels.
The role of the factories also changed in the process from having to do the blast freezing and packing and storage to only doing the boxing of the already frozen squid and then the holding until export of the fish.
The following extract from the Generally Published Reasons for the allocation of the long term squid fishing rights in 2006 gives a good background to the squid sector and its history and performance up to 2006 :
The squid fishery targets chokka squid (Loligo vulgaris reynaudii), the most abundant squid in South Africa’s coastal waters. Chokka squid is found between Namibia in the west and the Wild Coast in the east. Like all squid, they complete their lifecycle within two years. Sexual maturity is attained one year after hatching. The maximum length is 46 centimetres (male) and 28 centimetres (female). Chokka squid spawn on the seabed, usually in inshore areas, but sometimes in deep water on the Agulhas Bank. Spawning occurs year round, but is most prolific in the summer months. Chokka squid prey on crustaceans and fish. The abundance of chokka squid fluctuates substantially. The effects of fluctuations in predation, prey availability and the physical environment are more acutely felt by squid because their short life span offers little inter-annual continuity. Presently, chokka squid abundance is at near-record levels, but experience suggests that substantial declines can be expected. Recent scientific surveys indicate the need for a reduction in effort in the region of approximately 20%. Chokka squid (hereafter referred to as “squid”) has been used as bait by linefishers for many years. The species is also landed as by-catch in the demersal trawl fisheries. In the 1960s and 1970s, the squid resource was heavily exploited by foreign fleets. During this period, squid was caught predominantly by trawlers from the Far East. Foreign activity was phased out in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s following South Africa’s declaration of an Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”). However, squid and other cephalopods, including a number of species of squid and octopus, continued to be taken by South African trawlers. The chokka bycatch in the demersal fishery fluctuates between 200 tons and 600 tons annually. A dedicated jig fishery for chokka was initiated in 1984. The jigs are operated by handlines, making this a particularly labour-intensive fishery. The jig fishery registered its highest catch of approximately 12000 tons in 2003/2004. Average catches in the 1990’s amounted to between 6 000 and 6 500 tons per annum. Squid is frozen at sea, usually in 10 kilogram blocks. It is generally landed at harbours between Plettenberg Bay and Port Alfred and exported whole to Europe. In 2002, when the South African Rand was at its lowest levels against the major currencies, the price of squid rose to almost R50 per kilogram. The average price of squid in 2004 was R30 per kilogram. Between 1986 and 1988 a licensing system was introduced with a view to limiting the number of vessels participating in the fishery. The fishery is currently regulated in terms of a total applied effort (“TAE”), restricting the number of crew that may be deployed in the fishery to a maximum of 2423 on 138 squid vessels. Since 1988, the fishery has been closed once a year for four weeks in an attempt to counter the effects of “creeping effort”. Increases in vessel efficiency, catch technology and the use of more powerful lights (which are used to attract squid to the surface) have led to increases in fishing efficiency.
The long term rights allocation in 2006 saw the allowed effort being fully utilised by existing companies and with the resource under pressure and the industry more transformed than in 2001 (having reached 48% black ownership) it resulted in no new entrants being admitted to the fishery.
The fishery continued to invest in upgrading vessels over the next 8 years and in 2013 once again went through a Fishing Rights Allocation Process. At the time the industry was experiencing a massive drop in catches and was once again under pressure. That fact combined with the increase in black ownership of the sector to 62% and the implementation of an additional 3 months of closed season meant that there was no space for new entrants, as the existing participants remained but with 8 months to fish instead of eleven.
The sector recovered after 2013 and is still operating with a 6 week closed season in October – November each year and a 3 month closed season from April to June. The catches continue to fluctuate from year to year, with the best year ever in 2018 with close to 14,000 tons landed, which was followed again by a mediocre season.
The graph below shows the variability of catches over the past 35 years.
The squid sector has five levels of crew across its 123 vessels – Skippers, Mate, Chief Engineers, Able Seaman and General Crew. Each of these positions has various levels of training in order to qualify to operate in that position, with the training requirements set by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
SASMIA has an exco representative in the National Fishing Forum, which is a joint forum between SAMSA and the fishing industry and other interested parties, and is also represented on the syllabus committee of SAMSA which sets the training requirements needed at each level of qualification.
We have also entered into an MOU with the Transport Education and Training Authoiry (TETA), which is responsible for the maritime / fishing sector, to partner in furthering training and development of crew and officers within the squid sector.
This training is currently taking place in the form of 80 learnerships, 40 for employed crew and 40 for unemployed youth who wish to enter the sector. We are also in the process of applying for additional funding to cover training of chief engineers and for basic STCW-F training for general crew and able seamen. The program will continue to develop.