THE RISE AND RISE OF ABALOBI
It started in 2017. Until then, if you had wanted to buy fresh fish (even as a restaurant), your only option was to head down to a small, local harbour for the catch of the day or to buy it from a retailer supplied by a large-scale fishery. It had been a long, ongoing concern – that the livelihoods of thousands of fishers along the South African coastline were at stake – but more than that, a part of our heritage was disappearing, and generations of knowledge transfer was on the brink of collapse.
Ironically, just as modernisation had brought this age-old practice under threat of extinction, it now offered a helping hand. By November 2017, a new app suddenly brought the fishermen and women of South Africa’s West Coast in direct contact with Cape Town’s restaurants, which gave birth to the country’s very first restaurant-supported fishery. Except that this time, the seafarers – who went out into the deep blue every morning without knowing what weather they would have to brave, or whether indeed they would return home – could take back some control over how they earned their living.
Over the last three years, Abalobi has grown from a predominantly Cape-Town-based initiative into a widely-used app all along South Africa’s coastline – and has even recently expanded its operations to Chile – where it continues to spread its sustainable ethos.
In realising that no one organisation can know everything about the social and environmental impact of its maritime activities, Abalobi has teamed up with other organisations, such as Future of Fish, to ensure that it has the most up-to-date data to prevent issues like overfishing. But in their future vision, Abalobi and their partners also aim to empower fishers across the globe to achieve social, environmental and economic sustainability through their combined technologies and business infrastructures.
For a chef, an application like Abalobi is invaluable. JAN Innovation Studio in Cape Town – Jan Hendrik’s culinary development space where he and his team host an array of bespoke and intimate events every month – gets a lot of value from Abalobi, as it ensures the Studio gets the best fish while at the same time supporting the local fishing communities. Beyond that, sourcing fish in this way ensures the seasonality of the product, diversity of species caught, and most importantly, the sustainability of our local marine life.
Best of all, Abalobi has recently made its services available to individual consumers, meaning that anyone can now have access to the best fresh fish available while giving back to their local communities. As getting your fish this fresh means it doesn’t come neatly packaged in a polystyrene punnet wrapped in cling film, it might require you to fillet your own fish, but there are few things more rewarding than mastering a new skill!