GREENFISH INTERVIEW: INTERNATIONAL POLE AND LINE FOUNDATION
As part of the lead up to World Fisheries Day on 21 November 2022, Greenfish founder, Ryan Nienaber, was interviewed by the International Pole and Line Foundation regarding Greenfish’s vision and approach to low-impact fishing through one-by-one fishing methods.
ABOUT THE IPNLF
The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) is a platform used to educate consumers about where and how their tuna is sourced, as well as informing them about the differences between small-scale, low-impact fishing methods and indiscriminate, industrial methods. Through their Sourcing Transparency Platform, the IPNLF is taking initiative to educate the world on one line, one hook fishing methods and this is precisely why they wanted to chat to Greenfish.
As you know the Greenfish brand is built on the principles of low-impact fishing with our own boat going out to catch tuna one at a time by handline, and across our range we have made it our mission to ensure that not only do we know the source, but our customers do as well.
The interview was conducted by IPNLF Communications Manager, Stuart Hablutzel, and touches on the topic of one-by-one fishing, as well as the efforts being made by Greenfish to support the initiative and encourage local residents to become custodians of the oceans around Cape Town to preserve them for future generations.
SH: I’ll just recap for those who have just joined, I’m Stuart, Communications Manager at IPNLF, International Pole and Line Foundation. We are joined today by Ryan from Greenfish. Ryan is a legend in the fishing industry in Cape Town, a passionate fisherman. Greenfish has been a member of IPNLF for quite some time. We’re going to be working together to promote World Fisheries Day this coming Monday, and along with that promote our platform the Sourcing Transparency Platform (STP) to highlight fishermen who are making a sustainable future possible by fishing in balance with nature.
Welcome Ryan, I’ll let you do the talking from now on. Perhaps we can just get a bit of an introduction to yourself, Greenfish and an intro into small-scale, one-by-one fishing in Cape Town.
RN: Morning Stuart, and thank you IPNLF for having me on Instagram Live this morning. I think it is a fantastic initiative you guys are using to raise awareness and using World Fisheries Day as a vehicle to promote this.
As Stuart has said my name is Ryan, I am from Greenfish in Cape Town, South Africa. We’re a family-run business that specialises in tuna and linefish caught by our artisanal hand-line vessel. (As well as their own vessel, Greenfish also source fish from other small-scale fishing boats, as Ryan explains) Typically, the boats we are sourcing our fish from are under ten metres with a crew of between 6 and 10 people per vessel using a one-by-one method.
GreenFish provides a service to the food services industry in and around Cape Town and South Africa, as well as to our home online platform in and around Cape Town facility where we are delivering fresh fish that's been caught by us, or our fishermen, to your door within a 24 hour period of catch (...) providing a real nice route to market for a lot of these fishermen.
SH: Thanks Ryan. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about the one-by-one industry as far as its impact on the ocean and the environment?
RN: Firstly, due to Cape Town’s geographic location, we sit in a very unique position in the world, having the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean on the one side and the warm water from the Agulhas Current from the Indian Ocean on the other.
So this creates a very unique sort of melting pot of fisheries activities in a very small area. And what this does is bring a vast style of fishing methods to our area. We focus and hero our small artisanal handline fishing. And the reason we do this is because it's highly selective. Fishing with a single hook and line reduces the amount of bycatch that can be had to the environment.
This means there is little to no damage to sea birds, turtles, dolphins etc. (In contrast to) the other more industrial methods such as trawling, when the net comes past and literally scoops everything up in its path indiscriminately.
The other benefits of catching with a single hook and line is that there's no habitat damage. If they catch a species that is not a target species, for instance, a shark, they can simply unhook it and let it swim on for another day. Catching with a single hook and line is very labour rich - more jobs are generated per ton harvested by this method than any of the industrial scale methods. What's wonderful about this is due to its cultural importance, this money is staying in those communities and empowering local ownership. Because the point of entry or fishing is a lot lower, because the boats are smaller, and the gear is very simple. What's great about this is that money stays in the community. So money raised in that typical small fishing community is staying (there) that's going to the baker down the road for the loaf of bread, or to the local school for ballet lessons. And that money is circulating multiple times in a small micro-economy if you want to call it that.
And we haven’t even touched on the quality side of things yet. A fish caught in a one by one method, for instance - catch a tuna, get it on board, dress it, gill and gut it, put it gently into ice - it’s going to be of a far greater quality than a purse seine style tuna boat that catches thousands of tons of fish all squashed in the back of a net, those fish are getting a very low value.
SH: So it's not only the impact on the ocean and the environment, it's massive impacts, obviously, on the local community and the economics in the local communities.
RN: Empowering the locals to look after their resources, because if they know that their livelihood is coming out of the ocean, in this particular bay, or a few miles around from where they live, they're going to try and stamp out things like poaching, they're going to look after the resource for future generations.
SH: Almost like the custodians of the oceans and surrounding areas.
RN: Exactly, you’ve hit the nail on the head, they become the custodians.
SH: I just want to touch on the Sourcing Transparency Platform. What does the platform mean to you as a fishery? And how does it benefit your business at Greenfish?
RN: The STP is a fantastic initiative that the ILNPF has put forward. What this does is it creates a lot of transparency. Out in the marketplace not all Tuna is equal. Consumers will say “Hey, I’m getting tuna.” but they won’t necessarily know how it was caught, where it was caught, and from whom it comes. The STP empowers people with information, and with information that can make educated decisions. This is so important because not every style of fishing fits everybody's ethos or beliefs. And I don't believe that everybody is in a position to make sustainable choices. If you look at South Africa, for example, we have a vast diversity of people, people from very poor to people that are very wealthy. Unfortunately, the people that are on the lower end of the spectrum (...) they're not going to be “Hey, was this tuna caught sustainably or not?” Because they're hungry. They just say what's the maximum protein I can get in my tummy for these few Rands. The people that can drive the change in your middle to upper class, they can start saying “Hey guys, I'm seeing this tuna. This tuna was caught in a net and created habitat damage, you know, there was no social responsibility. It’s got a lot of bycatch” or they could choose to support this community based fishery, that empowered locals, (where the fish) was caught one-by-one, (where) they caught less fish, but gave it a greater value.
The STP is giving that information and building trust amongst the consumers to say “Hey, right? Look, there are different styles of fishing. I’m now empowered to make a choice that is best suited to my beliefs.”
SH: What message would you have for industry, specifically around the benefits of sourcing tuna on sourcing transparency platforms?
RN: The benefit to the industry is that, one-by-one by nature is of a small scale. However, with STP, collectively there is sufficient stock to hero these low impact fishing methods over the industrial scale fishing methods. The STPs give a good route to market to collectively say “right, we can take out sufficient volume to start competing with these industrial scale methods, but having a lower impact on our environment.” So, I think that's really one of the places where we're going to empower people that are in decision-making positions - big supermarket groups, wholesale chains to say “Hey guys, Whoa, let's hit the brakes on supporting purse seine style tuna fisheries and let's have a look at one-by-one (style fishing) the benefits are all there, the writing's on the wall. You don't have to be very educated in the topic to see that there's a lot of great benefits to supporting one-by-one and small-scale over industrial scale fishing methods. At the end of the day, we all want to eat beautiful fish tomorrow. And if we don't start taking care of it today, there will be no tomorrow.
In the beginning I thought, How do I as an individual make a difference?'' And it reminds me of that story of the old man that walked down the beach after a big storm, and it washed out a million starfish. And the old man walked down, he picked up one starfish and threw it into the water. He walked on two meters, he picked up one starfish, and he threw it into the water. And on the beach came running this young chap and said to the old man, “Old man, what are you doing? There's a million starfish on the beach, you’re never gonna make a difference?” The old man said, “No, but I've made a difference to those two starfish.”
I think collectively, if we each save one starfish, all of us across the world, and within the IPNLF network, we're going to save a million starfish. I feel the same can be applicable to our style of fishing, and our fishery that we all share because of tuna and the migratory patterns. Actually Universally, we all share the same stock. So we all take care of our little piece, collectively, we can make the oceans healthier.
SH: I love that metaphor of the starfish. It’s also applicable to other areas of ocean conservation, like litter. You may have touched on it previously, but I just wanted to ask what message do you have for consumers and people who are buying tuna?
RH: My message to consumers out there is that not all fish is equal. You may say “a tuna is a tuna” and yes, they may look the same, be presented the same in store, but my message is that not all fish is caught equally and you need to choose a fishery that supports your beliefs. If your belief is to look after the planet, to recycle your coffee cup, use an alternative option to make a tiny difference. Vote with your wallet, where it counts. The only way to drive industry change is from the consumer point of view. Consumers are the ones who dictate what they will, and will not pay for; and what they will, and will not eat. The more we can empower consumers with information. How it was caught, where it was caught and where it’s coming from, the better the consumer can make a decision that suits their beliefs.
To summarise, not all fish are equal, choose what works for your beliefs.
SH: For sure, hopefully we can shout it out loud this World Fisheries Day.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT STP
If you would like to catch the rest of the interview you can find it https://youtu.be/nNbQL9PFn0o. We at Greenfish remain passionately committed to changing the fishing industry to reduce its impact on the oceanic environment. We believe the Sourcing Transparency Platform is a valuable tool in helping spread information and awareness for ways that you can make a real contribution to preserving our oceans.
To find out more about the International Pole and Line Foundation as well as the STP, visit https://ipnlf.org/