The bottom trawling fisheries targeting the two hake species in the South East Atlantic (Merluccius paradoxus, Merluccius capensis) have been pre audited onsite and found to be not compliant with all the main Friend of the Sea sustainability criteria. The audit had been commissioned to Friend of the Sea by some main retail chains in Europe.
According to the most recent stock assessment “the spawning biomass for Cape hakes (both species) is currently at about 20% of its pristine level” and “M. paradoxus component of the hake resource is severely depleted (estimated to be <10% of its pristine level)”. The study also indicates that there is substantial overcapacity in the Cape hake fishery. It is estimated that the available effort should be reduced by at least one-third over the next five years” (2007, Marine and Coastal Management of South Africa http://www.environment.gov.za/HotIssues/2008/Status_MLR/ResourceStatus2007.pdf)
As far as the impact of the hake bottom trawling fishery on the seabed, the most comprehensive study concludes that «Hake directed trawling is expected to reduce habitat complexity including the removal of sessile epifauna and the alteration of physical structure.» Furthermore «[…] the coarser (gravely) substrates the most intensively trawled. Trawling on the coarser substrate types are therefore likely to have the greatest impact with longer recovery times than for example, sandy and muddy sediment types.» (FISHERIES AND OCEANOGRAPHIC SUPPORT SERVICES CC, 2005 http://www.capfish.co.za/foss.htm).
Finally, the level of discards in hake bottom trawling fisheries can represent up to 20% of total catch (FAO, Discards in World Marine Fisheries. An Update, 2005). An extrapolation of an on board observer report of 24 fishing activities indicates that approximately 500 thousand sharks and 1 million skates could be bycaught every year by the Namibian and South African hake fisheries, some of these listed on the IUCN redlist. Friend of the Sea official requests for further observers data and / or confirmation of the extrapolation results from the South African marine management authority were left unanswered.
The South East Atlantic hake fishery impact data collected by Friend of the Sea should come to no surprise, as it coincides with similar fisheries data, such as the New Zealand Hoki fishery. Both Hoki stocks are depleted and the fishery regularly bycatches species of sharks and skates which are considered vulnerable or threatened (MSC Re-Assessment report of the New Zealand Hoki fishery – page 13).
Friend of the Sea pre-audit concluded that it was not worth authorizing an audit for certification, as the fisheries were not compliant with Friend of the Sea essential certification criteria and thus stood no chance to be certified.