The deep-sea trawl fishery for hake
Viking Fishing is one of the most admired companies in the South African trawl fishery for hake. This fishery is technologically advanced, globally competitive and by far the most valuable of the country’s commercial fisheries. It consists of a deep-sea and inshore hake component and is certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard as sustainable and well managed. The trawl fishery targets deep water hake, Merluccius paradoxus, and shallow water hake, Merluccius capensis, but landings include about 20 other species such as kingklip (Genupterus capensis), monk (Lophius vomerinus) and horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis). All “bycatch ” is retained , landed, processed and sold. Viking Fishing has, since its inception, developed and marketed all bycatch species. Some are low value species that contribute to food security, particularly in the Cape Town and southern Cape regions.
The inshore trawl fishery for hake
The Inshore trawl fishery brings sorely needed jobs to the southern Cape region and the Eastern Cape Province. Viking Fishing is a prominent right-holder in the inshore fishery and takes the responsibility of job creation very seriously. This fishery operates on the south coast between Cape Agulhas and Port Elizabeth, using small trawlers to catch shallow water hake, Merluccius capensis and Agulhas sole, Austroglossus pectoralis. Viking Fishing operates five inshore trawlers out of Mossel Bay; three of these vessels are dedicated sole boats and two catch predominantly hake.
Viking Fishing’s Craig Bacon is currently chairman of the South East Coast Inshore Fisherman’s Association, SECIFA, a registered industry body that plays an important role in regulating the inshore fishery which is regarded as stable and well managed.
The small pelagic fishery
In terms of catch volumes, the small pelagic fishery is the largest in South Africa. The fishery targets sardine (Sardinops sagax); anchovy, (Engraulis encrasicolus); and red eye – also called round herring – Etrumeus whiteheadi. A small and carefully controlled catch of juvenile horse mackerel (Trachurus capensis) is also taken. Fishing is by purse seiners and occurs inshore, primarily along the Cape west and south coasts (sardine and anchovy) and the Eastern Cape (sardine). Generally, sardines are canned or frozen for human consumption, frozen as bait, or processed into pet food. The anchovy catch is reduced to fishmeal, fish oil and fish paste.
Viking Fishing is a leading supplier of boxed, frozen sardines and high quality fishmeal.
The west coast rock lobster fishery
South Africa’s west coast rock lobster fishery targets Jasus lalandi, a cold-water spiny lobster that occurs from Walvis Bay in Namibia, to East London in South Africa. The catch is mainly taken by traps deployed from vessels that operate in water deeper than 100m. However, in recent years the proportion of the catch landed by small boat (“bakkie”) fishermen, using hoop nets deployed in the nearshore region, has grown and now approximates 20%. West coast rock lobster is a high value species that is exported live and frozen, mainly to Asia, but also to Western Europe.
Viking Fishing processes and packs live rock lobster for export to China.
Viking Fishing fishes for deep-water prawns, Haliporoides Thriarthus, in South Africa and Mozambique. In Mozambique, the company operates through a joint venture with a Mozambican government parastatal and markets all its crustacean products under the brand name “Gambeira”. In South Africa, the prawn trawlers MFV Striker and MFV Key Largo also catch red prawns (Aristaeomorpha foliacea); langoustines (Metanephrops mozambicus and Nephropsis stewarti); deep-water rock lobster (Palinurus delagoae); and red crab (Chaceon macphersoni). These and other bycatch species are all processed and packed for human consumption at Viking Fishing’s Durban branch.
The mid-water trawl fishery for horse mackerel
Cape horse mackerel, Trachurus capensis (locally known as Maasbanker), occurs along the entire length of the South African coast, with the largest shoals caught over the continental shelf of the Agulhas Bank. Whereas juvenile horse mackerel are pelagic, the larger, mature fish move offshore and are mesopelagic by nature, feeding on or near the seabed during daylight hours and swimming higher up in the water column, where it is warmer, at night.
Horse Mackerel is commonly caught in the deep-sea trawl fishery and is especially prevalent on the inshore trawl grounds where it is landed by trawlers fishing for hake and sole. A sizeable market has been created in the informal sector where the fish is valued as a low cost, but high protein food.
It was Polish fishers who first discovered the huge biomass of horse mackerel offshore of Port Elizabeth in 1977 and established a mid-water fishery only a year before South Africa promulgated its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone, effectively removing foreign fishers from its waters. The fishery became known as the Southeast Coast horse mackerel component. After 1978, it took some for the South African industry to establish its own midwater trawl fishery for horse mackerel. This was achieved in 1990, specifically to fish the Southeast Coast component; fishing was confined to the area east of the 20°S line so as not to conflict with other offshore fisheries.
Viking Fishing is one of a small number of South African fishing companies that holds rights to actively target the horse mackerel. It does so opportunistically, adapting deep-sea trawl gear for the purpose of catching horse mackerel in mid-water whenever the shoals become available. Horse mackerel are generally frozen whole and exported to African countries, most notably Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, where the fish is an affordable source of high quality protein. Viking Fishing also markets horse mackerel across the entire length of South Africa, particularly in rural areas.