Cape Town - South Africa's linefish stocks are starting to recover, the World Wide Fund for Nature SA (WWF-SA) said on Tuesday.

“The initial signs of recovery in some of South Africa’s key linefish stocks indicate that we are on the right track,” said WWF-SA marine programme senior manager John Duncan.

According to the WWF Marine Report, the decision to cut linefish permits contributed to the recovery.

“In 2000, the commercial linefishery, South Africa’s oldest commercial fishery, was declared to be in a state of emergency, as a number of commercially important linefish stocks including species such as kob, geelbek and red roman, had been depleted to less than 10 percent of their pristine levels,” the WWF-SA said in a statement.

Marine and coastal management, which is now part of the fisheries department, then decided to cut permits for linefish by 70 percent.

“The findings in the report provide some of the first indications that these measures are starting to pay off, as some of South Africa’s key linefish stocks are starting to show initial signs of recovery,” Duncan said.

This was good news for the country's marine ecosystems and for many people who depended on the fish stocks, he said.

“Carpenter, hottentot, and slinger stocks are showing signs of recovery from their previously overexploited states.”

A ban on beach driving had also had a positive affect, with surf-zone fish populations increasing.

“What the science is telling us is that we now understand the biology of these species well enough to manage them sustainably,” said Colin Attwood, from the University of Cape Town's marine research institute.

“We are not out of the woods yet. Not all stocks are showing signs of recovery and those that are, are still nowhere near their optimal exploitation levels, but we are on the right track.”

There was still a need to make “difficult decisions” to ensure healthy marine ecosystems so that food security was not compromised in the long term.

“We have seen that where management is based on the best available scientific advice, it is possible to turn the decline around, but if we deviate from this plan now, all the fishers’ pain will have been for naught and we will quickly end up in the same position we were previously,” Attwood said. - Sapa