The fisheries research vessel, Africana recently departed from Cape Town for a 52-day pelagic biomass survey. Thirteen fisheries personnel members are on board. The area of operation will be from Hondeklip Bay to Port Alfred.

The purpose and objectives of the survey are to conduct acoustic sampling to detect the abundance of pelagic species (anchovy, sardine, round herring, horse mackerel and meso-pelagic fish), using acoustics detectors and fish biological sampling by measuring length frequency distributions, sex and gonad maturity staging, fat staging, fish egg and environmental sampling.

Collection of this data has a direct impact on the estimation of the total allowable catch for the South African pelagic fishing industry. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is in the process of sourcing a modern and efficient replacement vessel which is required to improve South Africa’s fisheries research capacity and capabilities to enable it to develop and sustain its deep-water research, and thereby contribute to maintaining the current levels of employment in the fisheries.

As the Africana is now over 35 years old, the recent repairs were severely impacted upon by the non-availability of spare parts, particularly the main engine bearings, which are no longer available off the shelf.

The Africana has surpassed its life expectancy of 30 years by seven years and, as a result, the cost of maintenance continues to increase on a daily basis and it is becoming unsafe, unreliable and uneconomical to operate. The replacement vessel can possibly be chartered locally by other government departments, research and academic institutions as well as by other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to conduct marine and environmental research.

After the last scientific survey of 2017 which was successfully completed in mid-December, the Africana commenced with its scheduled 6 000-hour services to the port and starboard main engines. Due to the required repairs and upgrades that were conducted during downtime, DAFF has lost significant sea time. DAFF wishes the Africana a successful research voyage. – Press release