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Fisheries and the ocean economy


Our oceans cover nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface, and produce more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere. Some 97% of our water is here. It is a major influence on weather systems and home of a vast array of marine life – from whales to phytoplankton. Over 3 billion people depend on fish as part of their diet, and about 600 million livelihoods “depend at least partially on fisheries and aquaculture” (FAO, 2022, cited by the World Bank, 2023).
This chapter is in the “Issues” section for a simple reason: our oceans are in crisis. They have been mismanaged, or at best, not been managed at all, having been overfished and altered by pollution.

The 14th of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiated by UN member states is to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” (UN, 2015).

Measures that will turn the tide, so to speak, include:

  • The setting of quotas on the amount of fish caught. Fish stocks are being taken from the oceans at unsustainable levels.
  • Adopting measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It reduces fish stocks, lowers local catches and harms the marine environment.
  • Establishing networks of marine parks/ocean sanctuaries in which/near which activities like building and mining are prohibited.

Find updates on progress (or lack thereof) in the articles under the “Websites and publications” heading.

Take a minute to think about the oceans

International business environment

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea lays out the rules of how far out a nation’s zone of influence extends beyond its shores. About two-thirds of the world’s oceans lie beyond national jurisdiction, and up to now there was no treaty protecting the “high seas”. In 2023, after nearly two decades of negotiations, 193 nations agreed on a High Seas Treaty at the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

  • The Benguela Current Commission is a multi-sectoral inter-governmental initiative of Angola, Namibia and South Africa. See
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Clean Seas Campaign on Marine Litter
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
  • The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) exists as a subsidiary body of the FAO (see below).
  • Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
  • Find both “Aquaculture” and “Fisheries” under the themes option at, website of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Download the latest biennial “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA)” on the website.
  • GLOBAL DIALOGUE on Seafood Traceability
  • Greenpeace International
  • Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) –
  • International Association of Fish Inspectors (IAFI) –
  • The International Maritime Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. See
  • International Ocean Institute –
  • Marine Stewardship Council Certifying sustainable fishing
  • Read about Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) at
  • South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO)
  • Stop Illegal Fishing
  •, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) website
  • Find World Economic Forum reports like Ending Illegal Fishing: Data Policy and the Port State Measures Agreement at
  • World Fishing & Aquaculture –
  • WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty  –

Find international articles and updates under the last heading on this page.



The African Union declared 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of African Seas and Oceans, and the blue economy is now officially referred to as the new frontier of Africa’s Renaissance.

Some articles …


South Africa: imports and exports

The Fish SA brochure “Fishing for a sustainable and equitable future” at provides overviews of this industry’s exports.

Local business environment

Poaching, specifically of rock lobster and abalone, remains a threat.

Further reference:

Small-scale fisheries

Livelihoods and food security in South Africa’s coastal provinces are intimately connected to small-scale fisheries. How does one balance restorative justice for communities discriminated against before 1994, be fair to established fishing companies and keep in mind sustainability levels? The Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa (SSF policy) and the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) and its Amendment Act provide the framework to achieve transformation whilst looking after the country’s marine resources.

ABALOBI, “small-scale fisher” in isiXhosa, is the name given to the mobile app suite which aims to enable small-scale fishing communities to be incorporated into information and resource networks, which include fishery monitoring, maritime safety, local development and market opportunities. Restaurants source a diversity of fish directly from small-scale fishers through the ABALOBI MARKETPLACE app, and this significantly increases a fairer price for fish sold by small-scale fishers. See


Further reference:

National strategy and government contacts

The Oceans Economy Master Plan (OEMP) is “to advance stabilisation revival and growth of the sub-sectors within the ocean economy to ensure increased contribution to job creation, GDP, economic recovery and potential growth” (DFFE, 2023a; PMG, 2023a).

Operation Phakisa Aquaculture Lab Initiative’s Progress: (i) In total 45 projects are producing farmed aquatic animals as part of Operation Phakisa Oceans economy. (ii) Small-scale aquaculture implementation plan was finalised.(iii) Signed MOU in 2022 with Department of Small Business Development (DSBD, including Sefa and SEDA) for the support towards small-scale aquaculture (DFFE, 2023; PMG, 2023a).


Further reference:


Government role players

  • Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Find “Oceans and Coasts” under “Branches” on the website.

Role players

Further reference:


  • Fish South Africa is an umbrella body that includes among its members companies like Premier Fishing, I&J and Ocean Fishing. Associations affiliated to Fish SA are: South African Squid Management Industrial Association (SASMIA)South Coast Rock Lobster Industry Association (SCRLIA)West Coast Rock Lobster Association (WCRLA)South East Coast Inshore Fishing Association (SECIFA)South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA)South African Hake Longline Association (SAHLLA)South African Midwater Trawl Association (SAMTA)South African Tuna Association (SATA)Large Pelagic Small Medium & Micro Enterprises Association (LPSMME)South Africa Tuna Longline Association (SATLA) and South African Patagonian Toothfish Industry Association (SAPTIA).

Training and research

Companies involved

  • Some consultants can help with accessing the different financial incentives from government for Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme (ADEP)

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.


Some articles




Some articles …

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