Squid Research - Introduction

South African Climate Change and Squid Program

The South African squid fishery is based in the Eastern Cape. When compared to the major pelagic and demersal trawl fisheries in South Africa, it is classed as a medium size fishery (average of about 7 000 ton/annum). However, it is one of the most important when it comes to generating foreign revenue (R 340 million) and supplying jobs (5 000 boat owners and fishermen). If one includes affected families, it is estimated that as many as 25 000 people are directly dependent on the performance of the fishery. Within the impoverished Eastern Cape, the squid fishery is regarded as an important economic engine.

The South African squid fishery is subject to 3 main threats (uncertainties): (1) highly variable catches, (2) variable global product prices, and (3) labour unrest (hardship). Government intervention to transform the fishery into becoming more representative by including previously disadvantaged groups of people in South African, has recently been an additional destabilizing force. In terms of catches, squid are short lived animals which appear to be strongly influenced by changes in their environment. Climate change phenomena such as El Niņo can therefore have a substantial impact. Market prices are determined by supply and demand, and inextricably are also linked to the performance of other squid fisheries around the world. Good catches in other squid fisheries, due to favourable environmental conditions and recruitment, cause a glut of the product on the global markets, which in turn, diminishes the benefits of good catches in South Africa. During times of poor local catches or surplus global markets, incomes of fishermen are reduced and jobs are lost. Given the seemingly highly erratic nature of squid catches, the threat of socio-economic hardship constantly underlies this fishery.

Clearly, by understanding the role of the environment in local catches, and elsewhere in the world, a better understanding of the key threats is gained. Moreover, if this understanding can be used to forecast squids catches, then some of the uncertainty can be removed from this fishery and its performance improved. With the correct systems in place this can transpose into a better livelihood for all participants. This is the overall aim of the South African Climate Change and Squid Programme.

General Science Plan

The South African Climate Change and Squid Programme (SACCSP) is multi-institutional, multi-funded and multi-disciplinary with an affirmative focus. In essence it embraces 5 distinct components of research all being undertaken concurrently:

  1. climate variability,
  2. ocean variability,
  3. squid spawning behaviour,
  4. global economics and local socio-economic implications,
  5. modelling and information systems.

Within each component, research of relevant processes is undertaken by specialists and students (who undergo training and develop specialist skills). Strong emphasis is placed on the quantification of these processes as well as coupling mechanisms between the modules. Where processes studied and are found to be important, core indicators are set up permanently to monitor on a long-term basis - observed trends are in turn, used to enhance predictive capability. At present this capability is seen as 6 - 12 months forecast. The final most suitable method of forecast will be chosen towards the final stages of the programme. In addition to the local catch forecast, up-to-date information on global and regional environmental trends, catches, prices, and relevant social information will be made available to participants in the South African squid fishery via an online facility. The program is unique world-wide.


  • To develop, through an understanding of the changes and links in the regional climate, oceanography and biology, a predictive capability (model)for the South African chokka squid catches.
  • To develop a means (technology) that can quantify the behaviour of spawning squid. This is crucial for the linking of biological data with climate and oceanography data, and modelling.
  • To develop a quantitative understanding of catch and price trends in other global squid fisheries, and how these impact on the S.A. squid fishery. Use this information to determine what can be done to optimise the local fishery to maximize benefits.
  • To provide resource managers and the industry with an "online information system" that shows the latest information on the performance of global squid fisheries, global and region environmental forecasts, predicted local squid catches, (possibly predicted global catches)and relevant biological and social info. The ultimate aim is the reduction of uncertainty through well informed decision making, that will give the South African industry a competetive edge on the international market.
  • To develop a system to relieve socio-economic hardship among boat owners and fishing crews who are totally dependent on squid catches. This system aims to upgrade economic conditions and stablise the work force (Fishing crews).

This page will enable us to publish the results that have been obtained from long-term monitoring collected through the South African Climate Change and Squid Program. Only results and basic analysis in the form of graphics will be published, and no actual data (raw data) will be available. This data will be updated on a monthly basis, as data is retrieved from the field.

The following institutions support this program:

  • Directorate: Marine and Coastal Management
  • National Research Foundation
  • South African Squid Management Industrial Association
  • Port Elizabeth Museum
  • South African National Parks