Welcome to the official website for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Aquaculture Development in South Africa.

The website provides stakeholders with the opportunity to register as an interested party; conveys the latest information and outputs of the assessment process for review and comments; and describes the opportunities for how stakeholders can engage further in the assessment over the duration of the SEA process. The website will also serve as a ‘knowledge portal’ for authors and experts comprising the assessment team, by providing them with a virtual library of all relevant journal papers, reports and spatial data which will be used during the SEA process.

Vision for aquaculture development in South Africa

Aquaculture includes the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in salt or fresh water. It is the fastest growing food production sector in the world, with the global aquaculture industry producing approximately 67 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of fish from freshwater (42 mtpa) and marine (25 mtpa) sources (FAO, 2014). An additional 50 million tonnes of fish is required to feed the world population by 2030 and it is anticipated that worldwide this production will come mainly from aquaculture.

In South Africa, aquaculture is still in the developmental stage and has the potential to grow and contribute towards job creation, food security and improving the inclusivity of the sector. Aquaculture has the potential of reducing the fishing pressure on wild fisheries stocks.

Operation Phakisa was launched by the South African national government in 2014, with the aim of implementing priority economic and social programmes and projects better, faster and more effectively. One of the key sectors within Operation Phakisa is the promotion of the Oceans Economy. Oil and Gas, Marine Manufacturing and Transport, Marine Protection and Governance, and Aquaculture were chosen as initial focal areas for the Oceans Economy.

South Africa’s aquaculture industry currently consists of a limited range of marine and freshwater species of plants and animals. The industry provides approximately 6 000 tonnes per annum (2012, including seaweed), which is less than 1% of South Africa’s total marine wild catch which is in the order of 700 000 tonnes per annum.

It is the vision of South African government to promote and grow the domestic aquaculture sector in a manner that contributes to food and nutritional security, creates sustainable jobs, fosters economic development, stimulates rural development and supports livelihoods, attracts investment, safeguards the environment and creates opportunities for SMMEs and wealth-generation (Operation Phakisa and DAFF National Aquaculture Strategic Framework).

Current challenges facing aquaculture

The aquaculture sector in South Africa is in its infancy with an estimated 200 marine and freshwater facilities in operation, most of which produce less than 50 tonnes per annum.

One of the challenges facing aquaculture is the over regulation of the sector. There are over 13 different licences required by a potential developer before being able to operate. These permits and licenses are required from a number of different government departments and are currently issued in a cascading manner which extends the permitting period unnecessarily. In this complicated and uncertain regulatory environment, potential aquaculture developers find it difficult to attract investment.

Other challenges include that production is focused on a few high-value species, scarcity of freshwater and a harsh marine environment, difficulty in accessing project funding, limited pool of skills and support services, unpredictability associated with climate change, vast difference between winter and summer temperatures, challenges with access to land and sea space, and perceived competition with the tourism and conservation sectors.

As the growth in aquaculture is desirable for a number of reasons, these challenges where possible must be addressed. In particular, the environmental legislative framework is one of the areas in need of improvement. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was therefore identified to assist streamline and integrate the current regulatory framework to facilitate the sustainable growth of the industry.

This led to the national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) commissioning the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to undertake an SEA for the development of aquaculture in South Africa. The SEA commenced in 2016 and has been completed at the end of 2019.

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