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South Africa Fishing
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    South Africa has a large commercial fishing industry. More than 4,500 commercial fishing vessels licensed by the Department of Environment Affairs work its nearly 3,000-kilometer coastline from Mozambique to Namibia. The industry employs more than 22,000 people. The principal species of shoal fish caught by coastal trawlers are anchovy, pilchard, and herring. Deep-sea trawlers bring in hake, barracuda, mackerel, monkfish, sole, and squid. The most important species caught by handline are tuna, cod, barracuda, silverfish, salmon, and yellowtail. Cape rock lobsters are harvested along the west coast, and several hundred other species, along the east and the south coastline. The total catch in the early 1990s was between 500,000 and 700,000 tons each year.

    South Africa exports about 80 percent of its fish in most years. Much of the rest is consumed domestically or processed into fish meal and fish oil. The industry hit a peak in the 1960s, with a catch of more than 1 million tons in 1968, but declined after that, in part because local waters had been overfished and marine resources were severely depleted. Recorded fish harvests also declined in the early 1990s after South Africa relinquished control over its former fishing territory off the coast of Namibia.

    The government enforces strict conservation measures, including fishing quotas and closed seasons, to prevent overfishing and to protect the fishing industry. Since 1977 it has enforced an exclusive South African fisheries zone of 200 nautical miles. In 1983 the government reduced foreign fishing quotas, and in the early 1990s it began scaling down the rights of five foreign countries still fishing in South African waters--Japan, Israel, Spain, Portugal, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

    Much of the fishing near large ports, such as Cape Town, Durban, Mossel Bay, and Port Elizabeth, is controlled by Portnet, the national port authority, in the mid-1990s. The provincial governments supervise some harbor facilities and provide marine conservation inspectors at official fishing harbors, including Saldanha Bay, Hout Bay, and at least ten others.


    Although agriculture and, later, mining historically have dominated South Africa's economy, manufacturing became the most productive sector in the early twentieth century. Until then, manufacturing industries--wine making, tanning, and tallow production--were entirely derived from agriculture and were intended primarily for the domestic market. Then as the mining sector expanded, new industries arose to meet growing urban demands for processed foods, clothing, and footwear. Until the 1920s, the country still depended heavily on imports, ranging from mining equipment to textiles and clothing. The government encouraged local manufacturing through the establishment of state corporations to produce electricity (in 1922) and steel (in 1928) for manufacturers' use and through tariffs designed to protect local industry.

    From 1936 to 1946, manufacturing output grew by 6 percent per year, and growth jumped even more dramatically after 1948, when the government tightened its control over imports. Annual manufacturing output increased an average of 13.3 percent in the early 1950s. Since then, most growth in manufacturing has been in heavy industry, led by the local iron and steel industry, but by the early 1990s, the manufacturing sector as a whole was relatively diverse (see table 14, Appendix).

    As manufacturing activity expanded, the sector became increasingly capital intensive despite the availability of a large labor pool in South Africa. The government encouraged capitalization through tax incentives and led such investment through the state corporations. During the 1970s, manufacturing enterprises steadily increased their fixed-capital stock, leading to surplus capacity by the mid-1980s. In particular, massive extensions at the government's power utility, Eskom, as well as the establishment of SASOL synthetic fuel plants and the Koeberg nuclear power station, represented significant capital intensification but only a minimum labor requirement. Furthermore, most private manufacturers moved toward machinery and technology to cut labor costs, both to keep up with foreign producers and to avoid confronting an increasingly militant, organized labor force. Nevertheless, by the mid-1980s the government recognized that much of the responsibility for creating jobs for new entrants to the labor market would necessarily rest on the manufacturing industries, and for this reason, government programs in the 1990s were beginning to encourage more labor-intensive manufacturing enterprises.

    Because of the general economic downturn of the 1980s, chronic high inflation, and the debt crisis--which hit capital-intensive manufacturing especially hard--manufacturing output slumped during the decade from an overall annual increase of 3 percent in 1981 to a decline of 2.5 percent in 1991. The biggest decreases were in textiles, footwear, industrial chemicals, and nonferrous base-metal industries. The poor performance in these industries reflected a weakness in local demand and the drawing down of inventories because of higher interest rates. Furthermore, average labor productivity in nonagricultural sectors was only about 2 percent higher in 1990 than in 1980, despite a major increase in capital per worker during the decade. Manufacturing sales increased after 1990, largely the result of improved business and investor confidence, increased domestic and export sales, and a decline in stocks of finished goods. In the early 1990s, manufacturing contributed more than 22 percent of total economic output.

    Manufacturing industries are heavily concentrated in urban areas--especially in the industrial region around Johannesburg, which accounted for more than 50 percent of industrial output in the early and mid-1990s. Other major industrial centers are Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Durban. Smaller, but nonetheless important, industrial concentrations are at Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Queenstown, and Mossel Bay. Government incentives for manufacturers to move to rural areas and the black homelands during the 1980s were generally unsuccessful, in part because of logistical and transportation difficulties. The government then tried regional development projects, intended to bring manufacturing jobs to undeveloped areas by providing performance-based incentives and improving infrastructure, although these projects were difficult and costly to initiate.

    Manufacturing industries registered sharp increases in capacity utilization in 1994 and 1995, exceeding 90 percent of capacity in the coal and nonferrous metal industries, as well as in furniture and footwear manufacturing. Investors judged South Africa's manufacturing competitiveness in the international arena to be fairly weak, however, largely because of the outdated facilities and physical plant in many industries.

    Data as of May 1996

    NOTE: The information regarding South Africa on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of South Africa Fishing information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about South Africa Fishing should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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