A summary of the South African sardine (and anchovy) fishery
Sardine is an important target 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 Total Allowable Catches (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. The population had been hypothesized to consist of three components (previously termed western, southern and eastern components), but is now considered to comprise two components, one cool temperate (Atlantic Ocean ancestry) and the other warm temperate (Indian Ocean ancestry), with interchange amongst them. Given the predominantly west-coast-based location of sardine processing infrastructure, exploitation levels on the previously modelled western component have been high relative to other components, particularly when most of the biomass is located on the south coast. This has necessitated the implementation of a form of spatial management to promote both a healthy ecosystem and a more soundly managed resource. Research is currently underway to model a revised spatial structuring of the population. This document summarises the history of the fishery, the current status of the resource and data used in its assessment and management.