After Morocco, South Africa is Africa's most important fishing nation. The Fisheries Development Corp., established in 1944, has helped modernize equipment, secure better conditions of life for fishermen, and stimulate the catching and canning of fish. In 1995, about 28,000 people were employed in the fishing industry. The commercial fishing fleet is operated mainly from Cape Town harbor, and consisted of 3,341 vessels in 1995.
The total catch for 2000 was 643,812 tons, according to the FAO. The value of fish exports was estimated at $271 million that year. More than 90% of the catch is taken from the productive cold waters off the west coast. Shoal fishing by purse-seine accounts for most of the volume. Hake accounts for 70% of all deep-sea landings. Anchovy, pilchard, mackerel, round herring, snoek, abalone, kingklip, rock lobster, oysters, and mussels are other important species. One-third of the hake catch and nearly all of the abalone are exported. Anchovy, pilchard, and round herring are processed into fishmeal, fish oil, and canned fish.
Rock lobster is caught mainly along the western and southern Cape coasts; about 1,693 tons of rock lobster were caught in 2000, with much of it processed into frozen lobster tails for export. About 75% of the lobster catch is exported. South Africa ceased whaling in 1976 and is a member of the International Whaling Commission.
Oyster farming at Knysna began decades ago. Interest in mariculture has grown in recent years and permits have been granted for farming abalone, prawns, red-bait, and mud crab.
Besides commercial fishing, there are thousands of anglers who fish for recreation from the shore and small craft. There are size restrictions and limits for sport fishing. A total ban has been placed on the catching of four species: the great white shark, Natal basse, and the potato and brindle bass.