Initiative to save South Africa’s favourite fish species

Information provided by: WWF South Africa

Scientists and conservationists are collaborating with anglers and ocean lovers to launch a new initiative aimed at combatting the decline of South Africa’s favourite fishes. Launched in April 2016, FishforLife is a platform that will provide critical knowledge for the effective management of South Africa’s recreational marine resources.  

Developed in collaboration with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes University and WWF South Africa, FishforLife is the first project of its kind to be undertaken at a national scale in South Africa.


©Stephen Benjamin

It is widely acknowledged that fish communities in South Africa have been depleted to the point at which the future of stocks is a major environmental concern. FishforLife was created in response to this and will raise awareness about the status of key angling species, the value of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and inform improvements to recreational fishing methods.


©Jaco Barendse

FishforLife aims to engage members of the public as active citizen scientists, providing the opportunity to contribute to the research that can secure the future of declining stocks.  According to Associate Professor Colin Attwood, Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, “Each time anglers go out, they generate useful data, even if no fish are caught. While some spectacular angling results are reported in the media or captured in photographs, these are often not available as scientific data.” By participating, users can ensure that the quality of recreational fishing and diving is maintained for future generations to enjoy.

The web-based platform,, is central to the FishforLife project, and is a portal to three initiatives driving the research.

The first is CatchReport, designed to gather user-generated catch data and will allow individual anglers to log what they catch. It will also capture organised data from fishing competitions.


Silver kob caught in Hermanus, 1960 ©Brian Cochuis

Fishtory will use historical records to identify long-term trends in the state of marine fish stocks and to set baselines for current stock assessments. These records, including old trophy photos, angling journals and newspaper clippings, provide valuable insights into how distributions, compositions and sizes have shifted over the years and the impacts of changing fishing practices and management.


A scotsman and poenskop on the beach in Jeffreys Bay, 1956 ©Vincent Taylor

Finally, iSpot will allow users to submit photographs to the Sea Fish Atlas, aimed at mapping marine fish distributions in South Africa.

FishforLife will also give back to users. Valuable information on best angling practices will be developed to promote responsible fishing, reduce fish mortalities, raise awareness of threatened fish species and the value of Marine Protected Areas. An integrated login for all three initiatives means that users need only register once to have access to all the benefits that FishforLife and its sub-projects offer. These include an online personal catch log with an integrated map, safe digital album of precious old photos, detailed and real-time weather and tide charts and access an extensive online community, including experts,  that will help identify unusual catches. There will also be fantastic prizes on offer periodically and FishforLife merchandise available.


©Stephen Benjamin

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