Ocean fish: measuring a valuable resource

Ocean fish: measuring a valuable resource

Next time you dig into a delicious plate of fish and chips, take a moment to ponder the value of seafood as a natural resource. Stats SA’s latest Environmental Economic Accounts Compendium provides estimates of quantities of fish available in our oceans, as well as data on catch numbers.

The oceans that straddle the Southern African region provide a rich resource of fishery products. Fish production feeds local markets and is important to international trade. So keeping track of natural fish stocks is vital to ensuring that this resource is wisely used.

Stats SA publishes data on the following marine species:


Abalone, a sea snail, is known locally as ‘perlemoen’, meaning ‘mother-of-pearl’. It has a high market value and is one of the most sought-after delicacies locally and abroad.

Abalone is heavily depleted. The closing stock of the sea snail fell by 35,5% over a ten-year period, declining from an estimated 5 088 tons in 2005 to 3 282 tons in 2014. Total catches of abalone fell too, from 175 tons in 2005 to 55 tons in 2014, denoting a decline of 68,6%.




Hake, together with Cape horse mackerel, is still regarded as being under optimal stock status. Sold as the fish component of fish and chips with salt and vinegar and tartare sauce, hake is one of the most common fish in South Africa. Caught in the Atlantic Ocean, it is also a valuable fish resource for the country, with exports to countries such as Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Australia and the USA.

The closing stock of hake rose by 34,4% over a ten-year period, from 419 000 tons in 2005 to 563 000 tons in 2014. Total catches of hake climbed from 143 000 tons in 2005 to 155 000 tons in 2014, constituting a rise of 8,4%.


Cape horse mackerel

Cape horse mackerel is caught as a bycatch of hake and is used locally and exported as a cheap source of protein.

The closing stock of Cape horse mackerel rose from 405 750 tons in 2005 to 579 474 tons in 2014, which is a rise of 42,8%. Total catches declined by 60,4%, from 40 195 tons in 2005 to 15 900 tons in 2014.


South Coast rock lobster

South Coast rock lobster supports the second largest lobster fishery in South Africa, and is restricted to the commercial sector. Specialised equipment and large ocean-going vessels are required for harvesting this species, as it is a deep-sea creature.

The closing stock of South Coast rock lobster fell by 21,4%, from 1 358 tons in 2005 to 1 067 tons in 2014. Total catches fell from 382 tons in 2005 to 359 tons in 2014, denoting a decline of 6,0%.


West Coast rock lobster

When you see a large West Coast rock lobster in the aquarium, the chances are that it is already 30 years old and can live up to 50 years! They are most commonly sought after for the white meat tail, which is regarded as a delicacy.

The closing stock of West Coast rock lobster rose from 19 871 tons in 2005 to 20 326 tons in 2014, which is a rise of 2,3%. Total catches fell by 20,1% over the same period, from 2 704 tons to 2 160 tons.


Download the Environmental Economic Accounts Compendium here.


Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2014. Status of the South African Marine Fishery Resources, 2014. Cape Town. http://www.daff.gov.za/daffweb3/Branches/Fisheries-Management/Fisheries-Research-and-Development/ResourceR

South African National Biodiversity Institute. http://www.sanbi.org/creature/south-african-abalone

World Wide Fund, 2011. Fisheries: Facts and Trends in South Africa. http://www.wwf.org.za/media_room/publications/?7004/fisheries-facts-and-trends

Two Oceans Aquarium. http://www.aquarium.co.za/species/entry/west_coast_rock_lobster