22/10/2017 06:13 SAST | Updated 22/10/2017 06:13 SAST

Drawing The Line With Regards To Illegal Fishing

"We just want to make sure future generations have an ecosystem and they can continue to fish."

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The serious problem of the over-exploitation of fisheries is what the newly-signed marine sustainability agreement hopes to address.

Earlier this month, Santam became the first insurer in the country to become a signatory to the agreement.

This is part of ongoing global efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to restore overfished populations and important vital fish habitats.

"We just want to make sure future generations have an ecosystem and they can continue to fish," said Alex Downie, the CEO of Associated Marine.

IUU negatively affects the balance of the ecosystem

"A healthy ecosystem is important for many reasons," Downie told HuffPost SA and IUU fishing severely impacts this.

For example, through by-catches. This is the incidental capture of non-target species such as seabirds and marine turtles, including endangered species. The unwanted fish is usually discarded overboard or left for dead.

"This greatly upsets the ecosystem by removing key species and disrupting marine food webs," said Downie.

In 2006, members of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) agreed to 'ring fence' areas within which fish can be caught. These constitute about 4,4 percent of the country's territorial waters. This was to prevent trawling outside of the ring fence and by so doing, protecting various fish species.

IUU is affecting people's livelihoods

Illegal fishing has caused losses estimated at US $23 billion per year, according to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations.

A report commissioned by the Institute for Security Studies, indicated that illegal fishing was costing South Africa R6 billion a year.

Further, over three billion people across the world depend directly upon the world's oceans for their livelihood. In South Africa, over 140,000 primary and secondary jobs are estimated to be created by the fisheries industry.

Seafood also continues to be one of the most traded food commodities worldwide and with growing populations, the demand rises.

So, the commercial future of the country's fishing industry depends on sound management and conservation of South Africa's marine life -- and this is what this agreement will hope to address.

"In South Africa, the ongoing health of two oceans is required to support marine life and the country's extensive ocean economy," said Downie.

Signatories to the agreement are now working on developing a risk management guide to assist marine insurers better address the challenges of IUU fishing.