Old versus New...During the latter part of 2004 the Southern African Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was born, in an attempt to spread knowledge about seafood from retailers through to consumers. Three primary objectives were set, which were to: use education and awareness to promote compliance with the law, shift the consumer demands towards sustainable options and create awareness around marine conservation issues.
92 of the most commonly traded seafood species were identified, and with the help of experts assigned a green, orange or red status. The fish on the green list were deemed as sustainable, having healthy and/or well managed fish stocks. The orange listed fish had a variety of associated concerns e.g. their numbers were noted to be declining, the management of the fish stock was poor or the methods used to capture these species are having an impact on the environment. Lastly, the red list denoted fish species which are illegal to sell or buy according to the government, these were either reserved for recreational fishers or moratorium species (i.e. not allowed to be caught in any fishery).
In the latter part of 2009, SASSI began the major task of updating the seafood list. This process uses an internationally accepted best practice methodology, which was developed by a number of organisations worldwide. This methodology assesses species under three main sections: the first overviews the characteristics of the species under assessment, the second at the ecological impacts of the fishery (i.e how it's caught) and, lastly, the management of the fishery in which the species under assessment is caught. Within each section, there are a variety of sub-sections which each translate into a score. The score is totalled and the overall score then translates to a colour category.
Whereas the old list focussed mainly on local products, the new list includes imported and farmed seafood with local products. The first phase of the reassessment process focused on data collection and the population of the assessment framework. This was followed by acquiring experts input and, finally, sign off by an external panel of experts who ensured consistency and accuracy across all assessments.
The new assessment framework have a number of advantages over the initial process, such as transparency (of both the process and the assessment), easy identification of problem areas in the fishery which allows for improvement, the sharing of assessments between countries (this is important as South Africa imports and exports a variety of fish species) and the red list now includes illegal and unsustainable species.