The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries manages the development and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources; maximising the economic potential of the fisheries sector; and protecting the integrity and quality of the country's marine and coastal ecosystems. The South African shores are particularly rich in biodiversity, with some 10 000 species of marine plants and animals having been recorded.
The productive waters of the west coast support a variety of commercially exploited marine life, including hake, anchovy, sardine, horse mackerel, tuna, snoek, rock lobster and abalone.
On the east coast, squid, linefish and a wide range of intertidal resources provide an important source of food and livelihood for coastal communities. Marine life that is not harvested, such as whales, dolphins and seabirds, is increasingly recognised as a valuable resource for nature-based tourism.
The main challenge in fisheries is to create a balance between maximising the social and economic potential of the fisheries industry while protecting the integrity and quality of the country's marine and coastal ecosystems and addressing transformation in the sector.
In line with international trends, the department recognises fisheries as an economic activity rather than a purely environmental or biodiversity matter. Government has expanded the mandate for fisheries management through the inclusion of fresh water and inland fisheries, as well as aquaculture, to the
department's existing responsibilities.
The department will gradually establish offices of the fisheries branch in other coastal and inland provinces. These are economic decisions, which contribute to employment creation and poverty alleviation.
In 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries hosted the sixth session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Committee on Fisheries Sub-Committee on Aquaculture.
In support of the adoption of sustainable aquaculture that benefits the poor, the department committed to investing in infrastructure and skills transfer to the amount of R150 million over the 2010/13 period.
The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy, which is being finalised, seeks to address the imbalances of the past and ensure that small-scale fishers are accommodated and properly managed. For the first time, fishing rights will be allocated on a group basis, rather than on an individual basis.