A fisher’s life

A fisher’s life

Meet the men and women who bring the hake to your plate
Between 31 October and 5 November 2018, the fresh fish trawler Harvest Krotoa, under the command of Skipper Ryno Blaauw, fished for hake 60 nautical miles (110 km) offshore of Cape St Francis on the southeast coast of South Africa. Fishing was at an average depth of 400m. Over the course of the five-day voyage, the ship’s crew of 32 men and women worked day and night, catching Cape hake and other deep-sea species and preserving them on ice. Once the ship’s hold was full, Harvest Krotoa delivered its catch to Mossel Bay where it was filleted, portioned and packaged.

Deck hands have one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the world. They work with heavy machinery and large nets in rough seas and strong winds. Teamwork is vital. Here, deck hand Duren Vraagom unzips the closed end of the trawl net, delivering the catch to Harvest Krotoa’s onboard fish factory where the hake is quickly cleaned, chilled and preserved on ice.

In the factory, work begins immediately. In order to retain the freshness and delicate flavour for which Cape hake is renowned, the catch must be processed and preserved on ice as rapidly as possible. Moyisi Gqweta regulates the flow of fish onto the processing lines.

Simphiwe Manyaka, Xolile Shinta and Zingisa Velile work the “piano”, rapidly arranging the fish for the cutting machine that will remove their heads. On the left, Mbuzoli Mathana removes bycatch species – mostly John Dory, maasbanker and jacopever – that will be preserved whole. These guys work fast and accurately. Not even the rolling of a heavy sea slows them down.

Anna Toontjies and Sipho Njoli transfer headed-and-gutted (H&G) hake into a rinsing pond. Once they are rinsed, the hake are conveyed to a holding tank where they are cooled with slurry ice before being packed into the fish hold.

Anna Toontjies is one of four women who work on board Harvest KrotoaRead their story here.

There’s a rhythm to life at sea. It seems to blend with the rolling of the ship. Each member of Harvest Krotoa’s well-trained and experienced crew knows what needs to be done at every step of the process of catching and preserving hake. The crew works together safely and efficiently with a common purpose.

Skipper Ryno Blaauw

“It’s a great privilege to be skipper
of this vessel”

Lumkile “Wiseman” Sodela, Bosun

“I’ve gained a lot, working as
the captain’s ‘right-hand man’”

Ronald Cottee, Chief Engineer

“I started working as an engineering
cadet, right after school”

George Erasmus, Ship’s Cook

“The sea life is an adventure, not a living”

Fishing off the east coast, between Cape St Francis and Port Elizabeth, Harvest Krotoa shared the trawling lanes with several other deep-sea trawlers.

The deep-sea trawl fishery is unique in that it is controlled by both total allowable catch (TAC) and total allowable effort (TAE). The TAC is set annually and limits the quantity (tonnage) of hake that may be caught every year, and the fleet is regulated by TAE; each trawler is licensed to fish for a limited number of days per year. The TAE ensures that the deep-sea fishing fleet doesn’t grow too big for the available resources. Read more about the management of the deep-sea trawling industry.

The men and women who work on Harvest Krotoa and other trawlers in the deep-sea fishing fleet are aware that full nets of fish are dependent on sustainable fishing. Over 1 400 crew members have received responsible fisheries training, thanks to an initiative of the Responsible Fisheries Alliance.

The training provides fishing crews with the knowledge and skills they need to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries.

Fishing takes place in all weathers, as the photo below – of Harvest Krotoa’s sister vessel, Harvest Mzansi, fishing in strong winds – shows.

The deep-sea trawling industry works closely with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to ensure that the fishing fleet is seaworthy and that employees are properly trained and equipped to work safely at sea. Read more about safety at sea.

Back in port, after a full five days of steaming and fishing, the team unloads the catch.

Now work begins in the onshore factory where Cape hake is filleted and transformed into a plethora of products for local and international seafood markets.

Finished products are enjoyed in over 26 countries around the world. Cape hake caught in the South African deep-sea trawl fishery is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – the world’s leading certification and eco-labelling programme for wild-caught seafood. The South African trawl fishery for hake is one of only two fisheries in Africa to be certified by the MSC.

Photos and videos: Claire Ward © SADSTIA
Special thanks to Sea Harvest and the skipper and crew of Harvest Krotoa.

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