Imagine if you could trace the lineage of the food you consume. Sounds like exactly what South Africans need right now, amid the listeria outbreak. The fishing industry has elevated the western and eastern Cape’s coastlines to worldwide fame. We have some of the freshest, highest quality, fish on our shores yet our fishermen live on the poverty line due to big industry.

A new App called ABALOBI is trying to eradicate the social injustice in the small-scale fisheries chain by transforming the way local fisherman understand and sell their catch. By promoting traceable, storied seafood by empowered small-scale fishers the App is creating a dialogue that is not only ecologically responsible, but also socially fair.

What is ABALOBI?
It is a non-profit community-driven initiative pioneering South Africa’s very first restaurant-supported fishery that supplies sustainable and traceable premium quality seafood caught by small-scale local fishers.

What is the aim of ABALOBI?
The aim is to source seafood that is ecologically responsible and socially fair. The partnership between traditional fishers, ABALOBI  (www.abalobi.info), WWF-Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (wwfsassi.co.za/) and Bistro Sixteen82, provides fishing communities on the western and southern Cape coast with a better price for their fish and livelihood for their families. The direct route from boat to plate ensures sustainability both for the fisherfolk and for the resource. 

How does the App work?
It is an easily accessible for a smart phone. All the fish caught by small-scale fishers are completely traceable, literally tracking the journey and story of every fish from hook to cook. Five carefully co-designed apps piece together to form the From Hook to Cook system, which enables the processing and marketing of fish and other marine resources with an ecological and social ‘story’ in a manner that is fully traceable.

Imagine being able to trace the ‘catch of the day’ on your plate directly back to the local fisher, discovering more about the species and more importantly, where, how and by whom it was fished. This is what ‘storied seafood’ is all about.

The launch of ABALOBI was hosted at Bistro Sixteen82 last week. Head chef Kerry Kilpin is an ABALOBI ambassador and stresses the importance of eating responsibly.

Chef Kerry Kilpin with her catch of the day – locally fished Cape Bream.

“In our restaurant you can order and eat responsible, traceable fish, caught by local artisanal fishers, delivered directly from their boats to our kitchen,” said Kilpin.

Kilpin works directly with the fishers – men and women – engaged in the ABALOBI initiative, who supply her with their daily catch. These often lesser-known, undervalued fish species such as Cape Bream (Pachymetopon blochii), are rich in flavour with a low impact on the environment.

Dr Serge Raemaekers, co-founder and project director of ABALOBI explains why the name was chosen, it is actually the isiXhosa word for small-scale fisher.

“The ABALOBI app gives small-scale fishers a voice not only in the food supply chain, but as custodians of our marine resources by collecting valuable local data, previously inaccessible to formal scientific research,” said Raemaekers.

The ability to collect information from this formerly untapped source holds immense value for fisheries management and conservation. The app also empowers independent small-scale fishers to run their businesses more effectively ensuring sustainability both for fishing communities and the resource as a whole.

Wilfred Consalves is a 4th generation traditional Lamberts Bay fisher: “Fishing has always been a part of our household. We still catch fish as taught to us by our forefathers. Fishing gives me inner peace. It’s my tradition, and I was taught to be compassionate and share our fish with the less fortunate in our community.”

“The ABALOBI co-ownership model has stimulated a grassroots movement of fishers claiming their fishing rights – their human rights – and showing that they too have a strong voice in conservation,” Raemaekers points out.

For more information on ABALOBI visit www.abalobi.org, www.facebook.com/abalobi.org or follow @abalobi_app on Twitter and Instagram.

Pictures: Supplied

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Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 19 years of journalism experience. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.