‘FishMS’ service a hit in SA

10 July 2007

The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) has successfully turned to technology to help preserve the country’s many fish species, with its FishMS service informing users of which species are in plentiful supply, endangered or illegal to buy.

“The instant access to accurate information and an informed choice has struck a chord with South Africa’s seafood lovers and cellphone users,” SASSI spokesperson Timony Siebert told the South African Press Agency (Sapa) this week.

He told the agency that more than 3 000 people had made more than 11 000 enquiries since the service was introduced last December.

Users can SMS the name of the fish in question to 079 499 8795 and a reply by the service will confirm if the fish is in plentiful supply, endangered or illegal to buy.

Siebert told SAinfo that the service was funded and developed from “home-grown” technology by iVeri Payment Technologies, who also manage the system, as part of their contribution to the SASSI.

“They thought it would be a novel and fun way to help champion the SASSI cause,” Siebert said.

Siebert said that it took about 8 weeks to develop and another month of “fine tuning and beta testing” before the service went live, and was promoted “mostly through print media and then spin-offs from radio interviews, internet, word of mouth and SASSI networking partners”.

The SASSI has already released a downloadable pocket guide and booklet as well as online database for seafood lovers, which separates fish species into three lists:

  • Green – These species have well-managed populations that can sustain current fishing pressure, and are recommended as the most sustainable choices available. 
  • Orange – Though registered commercial fishers and retailers may legally sell these species, an increase in demand could compromise a sustainable supply. 
  • Red – These are species that are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa according to the Marine Living Resources Act. Some of these are recreational species that can be caught for ones own enjoyment, subject to the possession of a valid recreational fishing permit as well as other restrictions.

Sapa reported that the highest number of queries for a single species was for the Kingklip, which is on the orange list, with 744 enquiries, while the most queries for a fish on the red list was for the Galjoen with 333 enquiries.

“SMSs to the FishMS service are charged at normal cellphone rates,” Siebert told SAinfo.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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