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Evaluating the availability of fish species on the South African market and the factors undermining sustainability and consumer choice

Cawthorn D.-M. ; Steinman H.A. ; Witthuhn R.C. (2011)


Information pertaining to the commercial availability of fish species in South Africa remains sparse, even though it is crucial for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions in favour of their own well being and the well being of the environment. The aim of this study was to determine the most commonly available fish species in South Africa by means of surveys of restaurants (n = 215) and retail outlets (n = 200) and to assess the conservation statuses of the observed species. Furthermore, the processing states in which fish were mostly sold (fresh, frozen, whole or filleted) and the quality of information available to consumers on fish at the point of sale were evaluated. Kingklip was found to be the most commonly marketed fish species in restaurants, while hake was observed most frequently in retail outlets. More than 30% of the observed species were of conservation concern and included, amongst others, kingklip, kabeljou (kob), east- and west coast soles and geelbek. Specially-protected, illegal-to-sell fish in South Africa, such as white steenbras, white musselcracker and Natal stumpnose, were marketed in restaurants and retail outlets. This study highlighted the poor ability of fish purveyors in South Africa to provide information on the identity, origin, production method and sustainability of fish being sold. Additionally, the labelling of many packaged fish products in retail outlets was in contravention with South African regulations. Poor vendor awareness, disparate naming practices and the highly processed nature of fishery products provide an opportunity for unintentional or deliberate mislabelling of fish in South Africa. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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