South Africa’s oldest research vessel, the Africana that turns 30 this year, will today at 14h00 depart for the annual six-week long survey to determine the biomass of sardine and anchovy.
This crucial survey, conducted during October-November each year since 1984, is currently one of the longest such uninterrupted time-series in the world and feeds directly into the calculation of the anchovy and sardine total allowable catches for 2013.
What is even more remarkable about this 28 year uninterrupted record, is the fact that this old lady with its eight laboratories and three containerised labs, has carried out most of these surveys without fail and in the process, established these biomass surveys as one of the most credible, accurate and respected in the world.
Refurbishment of the research vessel, that included the upgrade of scientific equipment, fitting of a new gyro and radio, repair of the motors and the installation of a new deck crane for deploying sampling equipment - all at a cost of around R30 million - during 200/1 prevented the Africana to do the survey for that season.
This survey is of high priority for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) not only because the pelagic fishery is the largest in South Africa in terms of catch, around 400 000 tons annually, but also the second most important in terms of value, currently estimated at around R1 billion.
Thirdly, annual surveys are also required in terms of DAFF’s own Operational Management Procedure (OMP) that was developed to ensure sustainable utilisation of the small pelagic resources.
The OMP is a set of rules or formulae used to set the annual total allowable catches given a pre-specified set of inputs – in this case the annual estimates of recruitment strength (estimated in May-June each year) and the adult population size (this survey).
This survey is multidisciplinary and will amongst others estimate the biomass and population length structure of anchovy, sardine, round herring, horse mackerel and meso-pelagic fish of South Africa by means of echo-integration and midwater trawling as well as collect data for the description of distribution and behaviour patterns of these fish and the influence of oceanographic variables on them.
During this voyage the research team will also collect anchovy, sardine and round herring otoliths for age determinations as well as eggs of these species for biomass estimation by means of the egg production method and for mapping of spawning habitat.
DAFF wish the management crew, under the command of Captain Khwaedi Lotta Mabula from the South African Navy, as well as the research team, under the leadership of Kanakana Mushanganyisi, well and look forward to their return early in December.