Table of Contents

See also the “Fisheries and the ocean economy” and "Aquaponics" chapters.


1. Overview

The way human beings live is placing great strain on the planet with various scenarios indicating that we will require three planets in the near future to remain on our present trajectory (NASA, 2014).  The oceans and marine fish resources have not escaped. Some fish-stock has become extinct and others severely depleted (WWF, 2011). How to ensure food security, livelihoods while ensuring that there life continues to exist in our oceans?

Fishing quotas have been one response. Sustainability initiatives like the blue eco-label and the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) is a second. The third is to cultivate fish for food. This is called aquaculture.

The primary types (or branches) of aquaculture are marine aquaculture (saltwater / coastal), freshwater aquaculture (fresh water / inland) and brackish water aquaculture.

  • Marine aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of marine plants and animals which is conducted in the open ocean, in enclosed sections of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are filled with seawater.
  • Freshwater aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of freshwater plants and animals which is conducted primarily in ponds, open water cages or tanks.
  • Brackish water aquaculture is a branch of aquaculture involving the farming of fish and crustacea found in the saline waters of creeks, lagoons and estuaries.

Aquaculture is probably the fastest growing food sector in the world (FAO, 2017). It has job creation and export potential. For several reasons South Africa (and Africa - see next heading) has been slow on the uptake. Government measures like Operation Phakisa and the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti)’s Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme (ADEP) incentive indicate, we trust, that a change is in sight. 

Source: Notes on the primary types of aquaculture come from the Legal Guide For The Aquaculture Sector In South Africa (see heading 9) 

The omega oils in fish is known to play a vital role in the prevention of cardio diseases through lower cholesterol levels. It can also, as a high source of protein, assist in the country’s serious obesity problems by limiting weight gain and even decreasing, causing weight loss as part of low kilojoule diet.

Source: Agricultural Action Policy Plan (APAP), 2015: 17 



2. International business environment

Farmed fish overtook captured fish as food for human consumption in 2014 for the first time.  In 2015, world aquaculture production reached 76.6 million tonnes compared to 3 million tonnes of fish in the 1970s. The Asia–Pacific region dominates the aquaculture sector, accounting for more than four-fifths of global production (FAO, 2017). Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food production systems in the world; yet Africa, with all its resources, makes up less than 1% of global production, with South Africa contributing only 1% of the continent’s production. The global market for aquaculture was expected to reach US$202.96 billion by 2020 (Grand View Research, 2014). See$202.96bn-by-2020

South Africa: imports and exports

  • The annual A Profile Of The South African Aquaculture Market Value Chain (see heading 9) covers imports and exports.
  • The Agricultural Action Policy Plan (APAP) points to the international demand for fish as being a market that South Africa can tap into (APAP 2015:17).