A summary of the South African sardine (and anchovy) fishery
The sardine fishery is an important component of the South African purse-seine fishery, the largest commercial fishery in South Africa (by landed mass). This fishery, initially established on the West Coast, but with some subsequent infrastructure development on the South Coast, is currently under pressure because of recent low biomass levels, reduced TACs and frequent changes in the spatial distribution of the resource. The current low biomass followed from prolonged poor recruitment, whereas the distributional changes are plausibly linked to processes related to spatial structuring of the population, which is now hypothesized to comprise multiple components (western, southern and eastern), with interchange amongst them. Given the predominantly west-coast-based location of sardine processing infrastructure, exploitation levels on the western component is high relative to other components, particularly when most of the biomass is located on the south coast. This has sparked debate about whether there is need for spatially differentiated management to ensure both a healthy ecosystem and a more soundly managed resource. This document summarises the history of the fishery, the current status of the resource and data used in its assessment and management.