Almost 95% of our cod (kabeljou) supply is already depleted. And galjoen, West coast steenbras, white musselcracker and East coast rock lobster are on the red list. This means that they are either on the brink of extinction or that buying or selling these species, are illegal.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 75% of commercial fish stocks are fully- or over-exploited. Some species are severely overfished and may even be in danger of extinction.
What's more, the fish may be illegal to buy or sell in South Africa, according to the WWF Green Trust and the proponents of the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI).
Continued overfishing is detrimental to everyone involved - from the fish and their ecosystems to the communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing, through to seafood retailers, and you, the consumer.
You can make a difference
So, how can you make a difference? Simply by making more informed choices when buying fish or ordering it in a restaurant.
To make it easier for you, SASSI has condensed the research on the impact of fishing into a chart that divides the species – or similar species in some cases – into one of three colour categories.
Like a traffic light, these are easy enough to understand. Those marked in green means you can generally eat them with a clear conscience because their population numbers are healthy. Orange means they're legal to sell, but if you have a choice you should opt for one of the "green species". Lastly, species marked in red are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa.
Print and cut this chart out, and keep it handy in your wallet:
ILLEGAL or In Danger of Extinction
Angelfish (Atlantic pomfret)
Blueskin (trawl soldier)
Chub mackerel (makriel)
Dorado (dolphinfish; mahimahi)
Harder (mullet) - not from estuaries
Horse mackerel (maasbanker)
Queen mackerel (Natal snoek)
Sand soldier (red tjor-tjor)
South coast rock lobster
Squid (calamari, tjokka)
Tuna (all except bluefin tuna)
West coast rock lobster (west coast crayfish)
|Abalone - local wild caught
Carpenter (silverfish; silver)
Elf (shad) - no-sale in KZN
Geelbek (Cape salmon)
King mackerel (couta; cuda)
Cob (kabeljou, dusky, silver, and squaretail cobs)
Langoustines - local trawled
Poenskop (black musselcracker)
Prawns - local trawled
Red steenbras (copper steenbras)
Red stumpnose (Miss Lucy)
Rockcods - all except potato and brindle bass
Roman (red roman)
Sharks - all except those on red list
Skates and rays
Snappers - all except river snapper
Baardman (belman, tasselfish)
Blacktail (dassie, kolstert)
East coast rock lobster
John Brown (Janbruin)
Knife jaws, Cape and Natal (cuckoo bass; kraaibek)
Large-spot pompano (moony, wave garrick)
Natal stumpnose (yellowfin bream)
Ragged tooth shark
River bream (perch)
River snapper (rock salmon)
Spotted grunter (tiger)
Spotted gulley shark
Springer (ten pounder)
Striped cat shark (Pyjama shark)
West coast steenbras
White musselcracker (brusher, cracker)
White steenbras (pignose grunter)
Also visit www.wwf.org.za/sassi for more information on how the classification system works.
FishMS is an SMS line offered by WWF and SASSI to help consumers limit their impact on the marine environment.
SMS the name of any fish species to 079-499-8795, and you'll be sent info on its conservation status and guidelines on whether to eat it or skip it.
- (Carine Visagie, updated November 2009)