Abalobi and Abagold, two proudly South African initiatives that are saving our indigenous marine life and empowering local fishing communities.
Cape Town is a city embraced by ocean on all sides and, consequently, seafood has become a mainstay of its restaurant scene. And yet, while you may sit no more than a stone’s throw from the ocean at any one of the city’s enormous variety of seafood restaurants, chances are their ingredients have travelled hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres to get to your plate.
If the catch is not shipped in from elsewhere – think Patagonian calamari – then it has had to make its way from harbour to processing plant and then through a long line of distributors before finally arriving at the restaurant, several days later. That’s if it’s not frozen first, which it often is. The numerous middlemen all take their cut with the overarching consequence being that the fishermen need to bring in an enormous catch just to break even.
It’s this broken system that the Abalobi mobile app and program seeks to abolish. This intelligent initiative removes the middlemen from the picture – as well as the costs, time, and distance between the fish and the plate – by directly connecting participating restaurants with the traditional fishermen who make their living from the ocean. The fish arrives at the restaurant fresh, often caught that very morning, and without the middlemen taking their slice of the pie, the fishermen are paid more for their catch, and so they harvest less from the ocean.
In the restaurant, the Abalobi app enables diners to scan the unique barcode that comes with their meal and read all about the fishermen who caught the fish on their plate: their name, where they live, how they fish, and even their family history.
The program seems to solve problems on all sides of the environmental conundrum: relieving pressure on our ocean’s wildlife, empowering local fishermen, preserving the fabulous culture of our country’s quaint fishing villages, promoting awareness of new and interesting food fish, and educating the public on responsible fishing. Abalobi is still in its infancy, but several restaurants are already on board, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Visit Bistro 1682 at Steenberg Wine Estate to taste the creations of Chef Kerry Kilpin to ‘test the waters’. www.abalobi.info
Another initiative supporting eco-friendly, sustainable fishing is Abagold. Located in the New Harbour of the famous whale-watching town of Hermanus, Abagold has become the largest abalone farm in South Africa, sustainably producing 500 tonnes (live weight) every year – a number that accounts for 80% of the country’s total output of both wild and farmed abalone. Abagold empowers the local community through the permanent employment of 500 staff while catering to the relentless international demand for this prized sea snail. www.abagold.com
It’s proudly South African endeavours such as Abalobi and Abagold that are helping to preserve the culture and livelihoods of our country’s fisher folk and fishing villages. So, the next time you crave seafood, make sure it comes with a story, and you can become a part of the movement that is saving our traditional fishing culture and our coast’s wild populations of marine life.