NSPCA AND SA FISH­ING in­dus­try at odds over farm­ing prac­tices

The NSPCA has al­leged that many aqua­cul­ture farms in South Africa pro­duce fish in­hu­manely. Ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Nazareth Ap­pal­samy, stock­ing den­si­ties and killing meth­ods on farms need to be reg­u­lated by leg­is­la­tion. Ger­hard Uys re­ports.

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Contents -

The NSPCA has dis­cov­ered in­hu­mane killing and breed­ing prac­tices at aqua­cul­ture fa­cil­i­ties across South Africa, ac­cord­ing to Nazareth Ap­pal­samy, the na­tional se­nior in­spec­tor of the Farm An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion Unit at the NSPCA. He said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had in­spected 49 aqua­cul­ture fa­cil­i­ties and found that many of these farms did not pro­duce aquatic species hu­manely as re­quired by the An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion Act.

Ap­pal­samy said there was no pub­lished leg­is­la­tion that dealt specif­i­cally with har­vest­ing or breed­ing fish in South Africa. The Ma­rine Liv­ing Re­source Act (No. 18 of 1998) dealt mostly with per­mits, while the draft Aqua­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Bill was still be­ing dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment. As a re­sult, there were no guide­lines on stock­ing rates or killing meth­ods.

“We have not fi­nalised space re­quire­ments. This needs to be re­searched and is de­pen­dent on the species. [In this re­gard], the Aqua­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Bill must be ap­proved. Once it’s ap­proved, reg­u­la­tions can be in­cor­po­rated. We are hop­ing that slaugh­ter meth­ods will [also] be in­cor­po­rated into the bill,” Ap­pal­samy said.


The NSPCA’s in­spec­tions re­vealed that fish were over­crowded and that this in­creased their stress lev­els. Such high stock­ing den­si­ties also ren­dered the fish more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease.

“Fish must be hu­manely killed in a man­ner that in­flicts as lit­tle suf­fer­ing as prac­ti­cal. “Var­i­ous meth­ods of hu­mane stun­ning ex­ist and must be prac­tised be­fore the species is killed or har­vested,” he said.

Ap­pal­samy added that some meth­ods used to ex­tract eggs were also in­hu­mane. “Be­fore fe­male fish are anaes­thetised for egg ex­trac­tion, their ab­domens are pal­pi­tated to see if the egg mass is free. This is done with phys­i­cal han­dling and is highly stress­ful,” he said.

Un­qual­i­fied as­sess­ment

Nick James, the tilapia rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Aqua­cul­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa, told Farmer’s Weekly that the NSPCA did not have in­spec­tors that were qual­i­fied to make value judge­ments on aqua­cul­ture prac­tices.

He added that the tilapia farm­ing sec­tor op­er­ated within a recog­nised set of norms and stan­dards as set by the Tilapia Aqua­cul­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa.

“Farm­ers have to keep stock­ing rates in ac­cor­dance with the en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity of the wa­ter in their re­cir­cu­lat­ing aqua­cul­ture sys­tems, and in ac­cor­dance with how much feed the fish will eat.

“If the wa­ter is poor or the feed in­ad­e­quate, the fish will be stressed and not grow, so the farmer will not pro­duce prof­itably. [For stock­ing rates], we rec­om­mend no more than 30kg/m³ wa­ter. A higher stock­ing rate of 50kg/m³ [is ac­cept­able] only if sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen is avail­able,” James said.

He added that the Aqua­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Bill would of­fer lit­tle ben­e­fit to the in­dus­try, as the bill would merely du­pli­cate ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion, as well as re­strict the sec­tor’s growth by not cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment.

“Ex­ist­ing agri­cul­tural leg­is­la­tion is quite ad­e­quate for aqua­cul­ture, which is sim­ply live­stock farm­ing in wa­ter. The tilapia sec­tor has a vi­brant group of ex­perts who can give ad­vice on fish cul­ture sys­tems. Govern­ment can pro­vide al­most noth­ing of tech­ni­cal value,” James added.


A lack of con­sen­sus

“There is no in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus on how to hu­manely kill fish for hu­man con­sump­tion. Over-se­dat­ing gives rise to tox­i­c­ity is­sues in the pub­lic’s eyes. Club­bing comes across as bru­tal, as does drop­ping live fish into iced wa­ter.

“As­phyx­i­a­tion, when a fish is re­moved from wa­ter, is the most hu­mane method; the fish is sim­ply over­come with­out oxy­gen. We catch our slaugh­ter fish and place them in a clean plas­tic crate un­til move­ment stops be­fore pro­cess­ing them,” James said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, slaugh­ter and stock­ing rate reg­u­la­tions fell out­side the ju­ris­dic­tion of leg­is­la­tion.

“There are no govern­ment agen­cies with com­pe­tency to draw up leg­is­la­tion con­cern­ing stock­ing rates or even slaugh­ter meth­ods,” he said.

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