Presently, deep-sea vessels fishing Hake under-catch their annual allocation by nearly 10,000 tons and it is claimed that this is because there is no basis on which to target by-catch once the allowable Hake quota has been caught.
The following policy and regulatory issues would permit Horse Mackerel, which is a form of comparably cheap protein, to enter the local market:
Research and scientific surveys are needed such that this species can be caught according to the same sustainability test that applies to other species. According to Dr. Rob Leslie, a specialist scientist with knowledge in this sector, the existing research vessels could undertake the research and survey work; any costs would be associated with survey measuring equipment and possibly some additional ship time. This investment in time and equipment has the potential to add tens of thousands of tons to the Total Allowable Catch (or TAC) and probably would double the currently set allowable catch limit. This would make the industry more akin to that of Namibia’s which conduct annual surveys and set scientifically-based catch levels.
If an annual TAC is set, the DEAT should put in place an allocations regime for Horse Mackerel for use by those vessels capable of catching it as a by-catch. This would align Horse Mackerel management with the management of other commercial species. There are no legislative implications in this regard.
• If there is reluctance initially to catch this low value species, the DEAT should consider initial incentives, such as reducing the per-kilogram landing fee. The Viking Company has dedicated processing and distribution infrastructure for Horse Mackerel. The over capacity, in general, of processing facilities would eventually be taken up those allocated the right to catch or sell the product to those who process and market it.
In the value chain of processing and marketing, specific policy terms (as incentives) may be designed to ensure that this element (other than catching) is left to small or medium enterprises with strong Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) credentials.
There are some resistances to be considered.
Resistance 1: There is a perception that there is no market for Horse Mackerel in South Africa. This does not accord with the experience of those who sell the fish, nor does it accord with historic sales of the fish. Some eateries have replaced this fish with Hake, thus, meeting their clients’ affordability levels.
Resistance 2: Some fishing companies will argue that low value species should only be processed as a bulk product in order to make a profit, as occurs with freezing it into blocks and exporting it or converting it into fish meal. With global fishmeal prices continuing to rise, policy design through incentives should ensure that the fish reaches the intended local market. There are many who believe that Horse Mackerel is a delicacy and that there should be a name change in order to market the product more effectively. The same fish is known as Jack Mackerel in Australia.
Very little value adding goes into South African catches of Horse Mackerel; processed Mackerel from Norway can be bought in most supermarkets today and sells at R120/kg.