Fisheries Research and Development


Our Vision:

Leading Fisheries Science in the service of the people of South Africa

The role of the Chief Directorate: Research and Development

To advise on and promote the sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources and ecosystems, and the sustainable development of aquaculture by leading, managing and supporting appropriate natural science and fisheries research.

This means that we

  • provide scientific and strategic leadership for natural science research on fisheries resources and scientific advice to support the sustainable and optimal management of aquatic resources;
  • provide scientific and strategic leadership for ecosystem research and scientific ecosystem-related advice to support the sustainable and optimal management of aquatic resources and the management of aquaculture;
  • provide scientific and strategic leadership for aquaculture natural science research and scientific advice to support the management and development of aquaculture;
  • create an enabling environment for research;
  • ensure cooperative governance, enhance service delivery and stakeholder relations through participation;
  • Oversee the management of the resources of the Chief Directorate;


With responsibilities to

  • Undertake research on living marine resources and advise on and promote sustainable resource utilisation, including commercial, recreational and small-scale fisheries;
  • Apply an ecosystem approach to sustainable utilisation of living marine resources & conservation of marine ecosystems;
  • Advise on the development of under-utilised or new living marine resources and rebuilding of depleted stocks where necessary;
  • Undertake long-term monitoring of resources;
  • Undertake environmental and climate change research relevant to fisheries;
  • Promote the development of marine aquaculture through appropriate research;
  • Understand the dynamics and functioning of the marine environment as they impact on ecosystem variability;
  • Provide decision-makers with the best scientific advice available, taking into account international best practice;
  • Build capacity in Fisheries and Marine Sciences within the Department, in government and in South Africa through collaboration with institutions within and outside of government;
  • Ensure that South Africa’s regional and international commitments with regard to Marine Science are effectively met.

Scientific Advice Process

Although they are not statutory structures, the Chief Director bi-annually appoints a number of Scientific Working Groups (SWGs) to formulate research advice. The main objective is to provide the best possible scientific advice to the Branch regarding all scientific inputs to management of marine living resources. These SWGs normally consist of a core of leading in-house scientists and technicians with relevant skills and experience in the biology, management and stock assessment of the relevant resources. The SWGs are supported by knowledgeable scientists with outside expertise from universities and other institutions, who are invited to provide scientific input and give peer review. In addition, mathematical modelers are contracted to provide specialist stock assessment expertise. Observers who can contribute to the scientific debate, e.g. scientists who advise the relevant industry associations, are sometimes also invited. Advice and recommendations are channeled to the Chief Director, whose input is considered by the Deputy Director-General in making final decisions on the setting of TACs, TAEs, other management measures and decisions on what conditions should apply in any given sector. The SWGs are also intended to provide a forum for scientific debate and to advise on the Branch’s research programme

Structure of research units

Service and information to stakeholders: The Chief Directorate is often required to provide scientific information about fish species and stocks and publishes an annual State of Resources Report, keeps a record of all Working Group documents and also publishes quality research papers by its own staff and international scientists in its in-house Journal, the African Journal of Marine Science. The African Journal of Marine Science is the Fisheries Branch’s flagship publication, recognized as the best natural science journal on the African continent. The journal publishes articles on a wide variety of marine science topics from around the world.

Directorates within Fisheries Research and Development

Resources Research

Aquaculture Research

Research Support

Capacity Building and Training

To ensure that South Africa will continue to deliver relevant, high-quality fisheries research into the future, many capacity building and training initiatives are supported:

  • Senior scientists are expected to supervise universit


To ensure that South Africa will continue to deliver relevant, high-quality fisheries research into the future, many capacity building and training initiatives are supported:


  • Senior scientists are expected to supervise university students in their disciplines and mentor young scientists after appointment
  • Departmental Bursaries for scientists are supported
  • Post-matric and technikon interns are supported during their studies so that they can experience our work first-hand
  • Collaborative projects with Universities addressing relevant fisheries research topics are supported
  • Partnership programmes with regional and international institutions as well as nationally with the National Research Foundation, the Department of Science and Technology, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Oceanographic Institute strongly focus on capacity building. For example, some 50 scientists were trained through the NORSA programme with Norway, many of whom were appointed in the Fisheries Branch.

    Staff establishment

    The Chief Directorate offers careers to and employs professional scientists and technicians whose qualifications range from Technical diplomas to PhDs in specialist areas such as biology, mathematics and other natural sciences, supported by some administrative and research assistant staff.

    List of stakeholders

    Ministry: DAFF
    Office of the DG: DAFF

    Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

    Portfolio Committee

    Provincial Departments

    National Departments

    - Department of Science and Technology

    - Department of Trade and Industries

    - Department of Defence and Military Veterans

    - Department of Transport (SA Maritime Safety Association)

    Provincial partners
    - Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI)
    - Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW)
    - Cape Nature
    - Western Cape Department of Environment

    Local authorities


    Fishing Industry
    All RIBS, especially
    - SADSTIA (SA Deep Sea Trawling Association)
    - SASMIA (SA Squid Management Industrial Association)
    - SASLIA (SA Linefish Industrial Association)
    - SAPFIA (SA Pelagic Fishing Industrial Association)
    - SCRLA (South Coast Rock Lobster Association)
    - WCRLA (West Coast Rock Lobster Association)
    - FishSA

    Stakeholder Groups, Civil Society, NGOs
    - WWF (World-Wide Fund for Nature)
    - Small-scale fisheries stakeholder groups (many)
    - SANCOR (South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research
    - Save Our Seas Foundation
    - The Shark Conservancy
    - Birdlife SA

    - SACNASP (SA Council for Natural Scientific Professionals)
    - National Research Foundation (NRF)
    - CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research)
    - South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
    - South African Data Centre for Oceanography (SADCO)

    - University of the Western Cape
    - Cape Peninsula University of Technology
    - University of Cape Town (esp. MARE and MARAM)
    - University of Stellenbosch
    - Rhodes University
    - Fort Hare University
    - University of Limpopo
    - University of Venda
    - Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
    - Walter Sisulu University
    - University of Johannesburg
    - University of Pretoria
    - University of Witwatersrand

    International community
    - Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries
    - Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS)
    - Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
    - International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT)
    - Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
    - Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT)
    - Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
    - South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO)
    - Benguela Current Commission (BCC)
    - African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP)
    - South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Programme (SWIOFP)
    - South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC)
    - Agulhas Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystem (ASCLME) - World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
    - Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
    - Institute for Marine Research (IMR, Norway)
    - Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)
    - ICEMASA (International Centre for Education, Marine and Atmospheric Science over Africa)
    - Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI, Germany)
    - International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
    - FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)
    - Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT Bremen, Germany)