Source to Sea Programme

South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative Project - SASSI

Why are we concerned about fish?

Seafood is gaining in global popularity both as a fashionable food item and as a healthy food choice. Conservation issues surrounding seafood species are however also increasing. The high demand for seafood, ever-increasing fishing pressures from overfishing and destructive fishing methods are contributing to the declining.

The world's fish populations are in serious trouble!

Recent studies have estimated that the global fish populations will collapse by 2048 if current trends in overfishing and habitat destruction continue, and in some areas, they already have. This will have a significant effect on all fisheries as catches decline to as little as 10% of the maximum catch levels. Findings from an analysis of historical scientific data, reveal that marine biodiversity (the variety of sea creatures, birds, plants and micro-organisms) is in serious decline. Twenty-nine percent of all species are already in state of collapse.

How can YOU help?

As a seafood consumer: Get informed about what you are eating and exercise your sustainable seafood choice. A species list has been compiled to help you make choices that are better for the environment, when buying seafood or dining out. The SASSI pocket guide below will inform you about the conservation status of popular fish species and allow you to consider your seafood choices from an ecological perspective.


What is SASSI?

The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was initiated in November 2004 to inform and educate all participants in the seafood trade, from wholesalers to restaurateurs through to seafood lovers. The SASSI initiative builds on an earlier project started in Kwazulu-Natal which sought to educate restaurant dealers about South Africa's fisheries law and other marine conservation issues.Download pocket guide.

Who supports SASSI and how is it implemented?

At its onset in 2004, the primary funding/support partners of SASSI were WWF-SA (via funding from The Green Trust) and the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Subsequently SASSI has enjoyed funding from a range of partners including SANLAM, PicknPay  and various other partners.  The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is the Gauteng implementing partner for WWF SASSI. As such, EWT organises and runs SASSI training courses for people involved in the seafood trade, participates in relevant public events to provide information to and raise awareness of the general public. We also work with law enforcement partners to strengthen compliance with relevant legislation and regulations. Other SASSI implementing partners include Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife, Two Oceans Aquarium, TRAFFIC, uShaka Marine World and the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB).

What does SASSI hope to achieve?

The 3 primary objectives of SASSI are:
1.Promote voluntary compliance of the law through education and awareness
2.Shift consumer demand away from over-exploited species to more sustainable options
3.Create awareness on marine conservation issues

For more information and to access the SASSI database, visit SASSI at:
Over the next three years SASSI aims to establish a standardised training network for seafood restaurants and retailers in the major urban centres of South Africa, and to launch a public awareness campaign that will educate consumers and enable them to make informed and sustainable choices when buying seafood.
Forgot your SASSI wallet card at home? Simply text the name of a fish to the number 079-499-8795 and you’ll immediately get a message telling you whether to tuck in, think twice or avoid completely. It’s called SASSI FishMS and it puts WWF’s knowledge of seafood resources at your fingertips.
Note: The more specific your query, the more detailed the information you will receive


Many people often ask about the state of our local fishing stocks and which fish species are the best to choose. Whilst SASSI provides good information on sustainable seafood choices, people still have many questions. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions, answered by SASSI experts.

1. Are there any alternatives to prawns and if not, how do I know whether the prawns are freshwater, farmed or salt water trawled?
Sadly there are no alternative to prawns. Prawns bought through wholesalers and suppliers or supermarkets should have the country of origin on the box, but if you are eating prawns at a restaurant then your restaurant owner, manager or wait staff should be able to tell you. If you are going to eat prawns- try source those that carry eco-labels (these may become more readily available in the future), otherwise farmed prawns would be a better option than wild caught prawns in terms of conservation impacts

2. What kind of tuna is in canned tuna and how sustainable is it?
Canned tuna consists mostly of skipjack but there is quite a large bycatch of other species, such as big eye tuna. The per seine fishery has large impacts on the status of the stocks as they encircle whole schools of juvenile tuna. Some of the tuna used for canned tuna is farmed through tuna ranching- which is not ideal either, as juvenile schools of tuna are caught, penned in sea cages and fattened up until they are old and big enough to be harvested. The conversion rate for raising wild caught tuna is 1:5, i.e. takes 5 pounds of wild caught fish to make enough fish meal to feed and raise one pound of tuna. The Atlantic and pacific per seine fisheries for tuna may result in high levels of turtle and dolphin entanglements. Ultimately tuna is an apex predator and, as such, is not a sustainable food source for large-scale human consumption. 

3. How do I get up-to-date information on the status of fish stocks?
Consumers can check the internet for the latest stocks. The following websites are good sources:

4. How do I know that the fish I am ordering is actually the species being advertised?
Unfortunately you don’t. The best you can do is ask your retailer/ restaurant and ensure you buy fish from reputable sources. Develop a relationship with your supermarket and fishmonger and ask where they are getting there fish from. The more interest you show in your produce the greater the chance that they will assist you in sourcing more responsible seafood.

5. Which of the commercial fish retailers are the most sustainable to buy from?
At this stage it is too early to make recommendations on retailers. When buying fish ensure that you:

Buy from the right people- only commercially registered fisherman (you can ask to see their permits) and reputable retailers, traders, fishmongers
Never buy from recreational fisherman and never buy fish that have been spearfished
Only buy fish that are the right sizes and in the right seasons. If you buy from a reputable shop then you shouldn’t have to worry about this, but you can always check on the FishMs service
Buy the right species: some species should not be sold as they are too vulnerable to over exploitation. Others are under pressure and their populations need a break
Consider how it was caught: some fishing methods are better than others and have less environmental and conservation impacts. Find out more about which methods are better than others and aks your fishmonger how your particular fish/ seafood was caught.

6. How long will it take to become a SASSI partner?
It depends on how quickly the establishment can register with SASSI and get trained. Training workshops will be held on a quarterly basis, so it will depend on how soon they can get their staff trained and the SASSI message adopted into their procurement policies.