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. Developed in partnership with the University of Cape Town, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and several small-scale fisher community representatives, the ABALOBI App is a smartphone-accessible platform where fishers can upload information on their daily catches, which can then be used throughout the value chain and allow diners to find out exactly where the fish on their plate has come from.

“Aside from enabling fishers to obtain a better price or informing consumers about who caught their fish, we are forging the way for a fairer, more sustainable food system,” says Dr Serge Raemaekers, co-founder and project director of ABALOBI, the isiXhosa word for small-scale fisher.

South Africa’s small-scale fisheries, where fish are caught using traditional, low-impact methods, are an integral part of the food value chain, and close to 100 fishermen and women are linked to the initiative, taking an active role in system design and testing. “This is not about a team of IT people developing yet another app. ABALOBI is an initiative by the small-scale fishing communities themselves, to own the process of implementing the policies they fought for,” says Dr Serge Raemaekers, the Project Director.

While the app will have economic benefit for small-scale fisheries and huge environmental benefit in that the information sourced directly from the fishermen will give researchers a far clearer idea of what’s happening in the ocean, the potential for chefs and restaurateurs is enormous. The app allows small-scale fisheries to deal directly with restaurants and chefs, and Steenberg’s Bistro Sixteen82 has recently begun using the ABALOBI app’s services.

Chef Kerry Kilpin from Bistro Sixteen82 works directly with the men and women engaged in the ABALOBI app who supply her with their daily catch, which is often lesser-known, under-valued fish species such as Cape Bream. Customers are informed about the ‘storied’ seafood through QR codes at the table that diners can scan to get the full story of the fish they’re eating.

“In our restaurant you can order and eat responsible, traceable fish, caught by local artisanal fishers, delivered directly from their boats to our kitchen,” says ABALOBI ambassador Chef Kerry.

“By purchasing ‘storied’ seafood, eating the right fish, caught by the right fisher, we can contribute to the grassroots economy of our fishing communities and rebuild sustainable fisheries. Nowhere in the world is ‘storied’ local seafood more important than in South Africa given our incredible marine diversity against the backdrop of our political history and prevailing social injustices,” says Dr Raemaekers.

For more information on ABALOBI visit www.abalobi.org. 

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