South Africa Hake Longline Fishery Improvement Project

Species – Shallow water cape hake (Merluccius capensis) & deepwater cape hake (M. paradoxus)
Gear type – Demersal longline
Location – South African Exclusive Economic Zone

The project will focus improving the sustainable management of the South Africa Hake Longline Fishery to a level where it can confidently proceed into full assessment against the MSC’s fisheries standard. There are sixteen improvement actions linked to Performance Indicators: one PI in Principle 1, five PIs in Principle 2 and two PIs in Principle 3. Actions in Principle 1 and 3 relate to the shared deepwater hake stock, fished by South Africa and Namibian trawl and longline fleets. In Principle 2 the aim is to quantify and reduce impacts on endangered, threatened or protected (ETP) species and vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). Linked to all the actions is the need to provide evidence of an effective monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) system and assurance that fishers comply with management regulations.

The South Africa Hake Longline Fishery targets two species of cape hake. The deepwater hake stock (M. paradoxus) is shared with the neighbouring Namibian EEZ and fished by the MSC certified Namibian trawl and longline fishery as well as the overlapping MSC certified SA hake trawl fishery in South Africa. The shallow water hake (M. capensis) stock is not shared with Namibia but is also fished by the certified SA hake trawl fishery. Recent certification of the Namibia hake trawl and longline fishery and associated market pressure has incentivised the South Africa Hake Longline Fishery to gain familiarity with the MSC programme through ITM and address the improvements needed to progress toward full assessment.

The results of the comprehensive pre-assessment conducted in 2021 indicated that a total of eight Performance Indicators (PIs) scoring between 60-79 (need for improvement). One PI was assessed as scoring <60 (automatic fail). In January 2022 the fishery entered the MSC ITM programme acknowledging that participation in a 3rd-party audited FIP is the most rigorous form of preparation for the MSC Standard. A prerequisite for ITM registration is an approved Improvement Action Plan verified by a 3rd-party auditor. Once in the ITM programme the fishery was eligible for funding available from the MSC.

In April 2023 the fishery was awarded funding through the In-Transition to MSC Ocean Stewardship Fund. The funding is strictly allocated to activities in the approved Action Plan and must be spent according to the schedule of work. Each year the FIP is audited by the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) to measure progress with actions and the FIP coordinator – CapMarine – is required to report the funds spent and work progressed. The full Improvement Action Plan is available for download and is summarised below.

Principle 1 – No PIs from Principle 1 were included as activities to be funded by the TAF grant but the hake longline sector is working closely with the demersal trawl sector to support further development of a deepwater hake stock assessment that accounts for catches in Namibia.
Principle 2 – The fishery has very little non-target catch and there is no need to make improvements related to primary or secondary species, outcome, management or information PIs (although more information on the source and volume of the bait species would improve scoring). However, information related to ETP species needs to be gathered to ensure that the fishery can measure direct impacts on those species (in particular seabirds) and contribute information to measure trends in those populations. Some data continues to be collected through the scientific fishery at-sea observer program but is not spatially and temporally representative of fishing effort and coverage is <5% of fishing effort. The fishery operates in a geographical area that hosts known VMEs and potential VMEs and there is a need to quantify the impact of the fishery on VMEs and develop move-on rules (if necessary).

Principle 3 – Shared-stock management is required between South Africa and Namibia and a Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed that specifies the communication roles of respective organisations in each country to make sure that each is aware of changes to the shared deepwater hake stock. SAHLLA must be included in these communications and likewise share data and information of the hake longline sectors catches with other affected parties. Fishery specific management (PI 3.2.3) requires improvement, in particular acquiring statistics of offload monitoring and inspections. There have been difficulties with compliance monitoring in the past (particularly regarding the enforcement presence at sea). Evidence of inspections and transgressions as well as consistent application of the sanctions in the hake longline fishery is needed to improve scoring. Clarity on the total landed weight estimate procedure and surety of its ability to accurately estimate landed volumes of hake (and bycatch) species is needed. In addition skippers require training to accurately and fully complete their catch statistics logbooks in order to submit complete data to the regulatory authority that can contribute to the hake Operational management Procedure and TAC setting processes.

Project outcomes will take the form of technical reports on each project activity and annual reports detailing the findings of the at-sea observer program. It is expected that once the project is completed the fishery will have baseline reports on the following:

  1. Updated vessel-category seabird bycatch mitigation plans;
  2. Proposal for updated seabird bycatch mitigation measures for permit conditions;
  3. Safe handling and release guides for chondricthyans;
  4. Vessel crew training materials on bycatch identification and safe handling (seabirds/sharks);
  5. Spatially and temporally representative observer program with a target 5-10% coverage;
  6. Catch rates of ETP species;
  7. Baseline habitat maps and spatial impact of the fishery;
  8. VME move-on rules and reporting in place;
  9. Available alternative spatial management measures to protect VMEs;
  10. Evidence of an effective MCS system and proposals for improvements;
  11. Validation of the catch estimation procedure used by FCOs during offload monitoring;
  12. Comparison of factory weight estimates, skipper and offload estimates; and
  13. Recommendations for training to improve skipper understanding of logbook data requirements.

Capricorn Marine Environmental (Pty) Ltd.

FIP Manager – Stewart Norman (
FIP coordinator – Alistair Burls (

South African Hake Longline Association

Chairperson – Clyde Bodenham (
Website –

Marine Stewardship Council

Marine Stewardship Council In-Transition to MSC Programme
Marine Stewardship Council Ocean Stewardship Fund
MSC OSF Grant Announcement

FIP at a Glance

Actions 75% to 100% Complete
Actions 25% - 75% Complete
Actions Yet to Start or less than 25% complete

Last Updated – 21/06/2024

Project Milestones

  • In-Transition to MSC registration and FIP start date – 01 January 2022
  • 1st year ITM verification – 07 February 2023
  • MSC Ocean Stewardship Fund grant awarded – 30 April 2023
  • Transition to ITM Standard V2.0
  • 2nd year ITM verification – pending July 2024
  • FIP end date and 3rd year ITM verification – pending 30 June 2025
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