Loligo vulgaris reynaudii or chokka squid belongs to the family Loliginidae. Various species of this family are subject to heavy exploitation throughout the world, and sustain fisheries from a few tonnes up to 100 thousand tonnes a year.
A direct biomass estimate of the South African chokka resource has not thus far been possible. Chokka squid occurs, and is commercially exploited, in shelf waters from East London to Cape Agulhas and occasionally as far west as False Bay. The major concentrations are from the Tsitsikamma in the West to Cape Padrone in the East. Port Elizabeth is the hub of the squid industry.
An average of 9,000 tons of squid are caught per annum, generating foreign exchange in the order of R1 Billion and providing employment for 2,443 fishermen and 550 fish factory workers and land-based support staff.
Scientific research on the resource is industry supported and compares favourably with efforts elsewhere in the world. While some scientific indicators show a gradual decline in the resource the major fluctuations in catches appear to be the result of varying environmental conditions.
The areas in which the resource occurs is often subject to extreme weather and oceanographic conditions. The species is short-lived with a life span of up to 2 years, so even the impact of weather during the spawning season can affect how abundant the resource is in the following year.
Catches over the years have varied from a low of 2,500 tons to a high of 14,000 tons per annum.
THE TOTAL ALLOWABLE EFFORT MODEL
The industry is an effort-based fishery and is controlled and monitored using ‘Total Allowable Effort’ (‘TAE’) as the tool of measurement and control. This method sets the total number of fishing days for the entire sector and then allocates a corresponding number of crew (permits) to utilise that effort and sets further parameters in terms of the number of days that may be fished each year.
The TAE is currently set at 290,000 man-days of fishing, which is then allocated to 2,443 crew (permits) who may each fish for a total of 119 days per year. The number of crew has been fairly stable since the 1980s when the sector was first regulated, but the days allowed for fishing and the duration of the season has been reduced over time in order to control the overall effort.
There are currently two closed seasons.
The original closed season of six weeks in October – November each year has been in existence since the 1980s and is designed to protect the squid during its peak spawning period.
An additional closed season of 3 months was introduced in 2014 after two of the worst years on record to reduce the effort being applied. This measure succeeded, with the annual catches recovering over the following five years, but has meant that since 2014 the vessels and crew effectively only operate for 8 months of the year.
This additional closed season is currently from April to June each year but does move from time to time by agreement between the sector and the Scientific Working Group.
FISHING RIGHTS ALLOCATIONS
The rights to access the squid resource is governed by the Marine Living Resources Act, which gives the Department of Fisheries the right to allocate fishing rights. In the case of the squid sector, rights were originally issued and renewed annually from 1985 until 2001. From 2001 to 2005 medium-term rights were allocated, which were followed by the first squid long-term rights allocation from 2006 to 2013 and a second long-term rights allocation from 2014 to 2020. The third long term rights allocation should have been implemented from 2021 but has been delayed a year and a Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) is currently underway which will be completed by the end of 2021 and should issue the next long-term rights which should be for a 15 year period.
We have enclosed the Act and Regulations and some of the historic rights allocation documentation as well as the permit conditions under the DEFF COMPLIANCE TAB.
FISHERIES IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (FIP)
The squid sector, together with 8 other commercial sectors, underwent a pre-assessment in terms of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard in 2019 which was funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. This resulted in a pre-assessment report which is available on request and which identified the sector as being fully compliant in 60 out of 64 areas, and probably able to successfully apply for MSC certification.
The sector has not applied for MSC certification yet, but has implemented a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) which will endeavour to raise its level of compliance in the 4 areas identified by the pre-assessment as needing improvement.
The Marine Stewardship Council promotes sustainable development of global fisheries and certifices them based on a broad range of criteria. The squid industry did a pre-assessment for MSC which indicated it would probably qualify if it applied for certification.
With both the Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) and the FRAP process currently under way, the industry has deferred any decision on whether or not to appply for MSC certification till later and will consider this again once the current long term rights allocation process has been completed and it has made progress with the FIP.
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The core focus of SASMIA is to provide a two-way communication channel between government and the industry, and to fund squid resource research.