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date: 20 April 2019

The Marine Fisheries of South Africa

Summary and Keywords

The South African fisheries are environmentally bifurcated by the different current regimes on the west (Benguela) and east (Agulhas) coasts. Limited precolonial subsistence use of the littoral zone was supplemented from the mid-17th century by commercial harvesting of marine mammals for international trade and fish to ration imported slave labor. The liberalization of trade after 1814 led to the commercialization of Benguela fisheries by Cape Town merchants drying barrracouta (snoek) for export to ration indentured Indian labor on the sugar plantations of the southwest Indian Ocean and canning rock lobster to feed the urban bourgeoisies of Europe. The mineral revolution in the final quarter of the 19th century created an expanded southern African demand for fish in the new mining centers of the subcontinent, prompting the colonial state to pioneer the demersal fisheries of the Agulhas current, which were monopolized for the first half of the 20th century by British-owned steam trawlers. The motorization of rock lobster fishing in the same period created widespread poverty in the inshore subsistence fisheries. This became an increasingly politicized issue as Afrikaner nationalists laid blame on the British monopoly over the national fish market. Proposed state nationalization of the demersal fishery and reorganization of the inshore fisheries into cooperatives was defeated in 1944 in favor of state financing of private capital through the provision of research, infrastructure, and finance. Afrikaner nationalists after 1948 utilized the latter to engineer the rapid industrialization of the pelagic inshore fisheries and concomitant rise of Afrikaner capital. Falling inshore catches and increasing foreign competition in the demersal fishery led to a crisis in the 1960s that was resolved through the creation and strict conservation of an exclusive economic zone south of the Orange River coupled with the looting of the Namibian colony’s fish resources. The postcolonial states in Namibia (1990) and South Africa (1994) thus inherited severely depleted fisheries resources dominated by white capital and superintended by neoliberal states, severely constraining black capital formation. Both consequently satisfied themselves with blackening the white monopolies and defending their exclusive resource access against escalating insurgencies from the excluded black underclass.

Keywords: fisheries, hake, Namibia, pilchard, rock lobster, South Africa

Defining the “South African” Fisheries

The geographical ambit of the “South African” fisheries expanded dramatically over the course of the 20th century. It began, in 1910, as an inherited colonial sea that reached just three nautical miles seaward of the coast along a 1,738-mile coastline from the Orange River mouth in the west to Kosi Bay in the east. The postcolonial white national state increased it by half through the conquest of Namibia in 1915 (977 miles) and then pushed its seaward border out, first to twelve nautical miles in 1964 and then to 200 nautical miles in 1978, including that of the Prince Edward Islands (annexed in 1948), whose two tiny volcanic cinder cones (208 square miles) added more than 310,685 square miles of the southern Indian Ocean to the national estate. The scale of the national sea thus grew by an order of magnitude over the century after 1910; from a 9,320-square-mile coastal rind in 1910 to more than 932,056 square miles today, significantly larger than the surface area of the terrestrial nation state. South Africa also acquired an Antarctic base in 1960 with concomitant fishing rights in the southern ocean, and South African fishing capital extended its operations into both the Humboldt (Chile) and Canary (Mauritania) upwelling current systems in the second half of the 20th century.

The South African state’s reach always far exceeded its grasp over this burgeoning maritime estate. While it acquired rudimentary naval (1922) and marine research (1930) capacities in the first half of the 20th century, it only took control over marine fisheries from the Cape Province in 1940. In addition, it was unable to enforce its claim (against both national and international fishing fleets) to enlarged territorial waters in the Namibian colony after 1964, or its own contingent exclusive economic zone (much less than that of the Prince Edward Islands) after 1978. The postcolonial state’s ownership of the sea was most effectively exercised through the inheritance from its colonial predecessors of a 120-foot “naval reserve” above the high-water mark along the length of its coastline. This was the basis of its gatekeeping over the maritime commons until the final third of the 20th century, when the arrival of international fishing fleets in the southeast Atlantic rendered it an increasingly impotent sovereign of the sea. The various colonial, provincial, and national states were primarily rent-seekers on the marine commons, charging users for the right to access the sea and its resources, but always lacking the marine research and compliance capacity to value those resources accurately or exclude non-fee-paying users effectively, and so always hostage to particular interests of various kinds. The post-1910 national state was thus unable to even assert control over all the fisheries along its coastline; the Natal province refused to surrender its marine fisheries in the mid-1930s, and the national state was forced to cede authority over sea fisheries back to the “independent” Bantustans of Transkei (1976–1994) and Ciskei (1981–1994).

The national sea is governed by the two prevailing current systems; the Benguela on the west coast (from the mouth of the Orange River to Cape Agulhas) and the Agulhas on the east coast (from Cape Agulhas to Kosi Bay).1 The former is a slow-moving, wind-driven upwelling current flowing south to north and dominated by relatively few species occurring in great abundance. The latter a fast-moving warm current flowing north to south with abundant species occurring in much lower numbers. As a result, since the beginning of white settlement of the subcontinent in the mid-17th century, the commercial fisheries have always focused on the Benguela current, while the Agulhas current has been exploited mainly by subsistence fishers to supplement agropastoralism or migrant wage labor. Thus, although the coastline is devoid of natural protection, state harbor and other infrastructure investment has focused on the west coast, as has marine research spending. However, even at the height of their industrial exploitation in the 1960s, the fisheries have never contributed more than 1 percent to South Africa’s gross domestic product. As a result, they have always been developed to subsidize the needs of the economically dominant mining and politically powerful agricultural sectors for cheap protein to feed wage labor and domestic livestock. The national market, however, could not absorb the production from the industrialized fisheries, and South Africa became a net fish exporter in the second half of the 20th century. The combination of a gatekeeper state and low national economic importance have made fisheries use rights a form of political patronage for the successive states that have laid claim to control of the maritime commons since the 19th century.

In contrast to the sea, the inland waters of South Africa are relatively fish poor and their fisheries have historically been small-scale, seasonal supplements to hunting and gathering, pastoralism, and agriculture, focused on the resource-rich estuaries that are important nursery sites for marine species. Since the mineral revolution, beginning in the 1850s, the national river systems have been extensively degraded by and re-engineered to serve the demands of commercial agriculture, mining, urbanization, and white middle-class recreation. The British colonial states and their 20th-century provincial successors established hatcheries for the production and distribution at cost of a range of invasive alien sport and food fishes from the 1890s onward. Control over these so-called inland fisheries was vested in the provinces at Union in 1910 and has remained there ever since, only passing briefly into the hands of the various “independent” Bantustan administrations in the final quarter of the 20th century. The South African inland fisheries have no historiography, only archaeology and anthropology, and are not further discussed here. In what follows, the focus is on the Benguela fisheries, as that is where historiography has focused, and the most intensive human exploitation has occurred.

The Precolonial Fisheries of South Africa

There is archaeological evidence of a human presence on the South African coast from the Early Stone Age (1–0.5 million years before present, or bp), but the earliest evidence for systematic use of marine resources dates from 120,000 years bp, when they were integrated into the hunter-gathering economy. Most of what is known about the precolonial marine fisheries derives from the far more numerous Late Stone Age sites deposited in the last 12,000 years. Most earlier sites were submerged on the coastal shelf by the 393.7-foot rise in sea level since the end of the last glacial maximum, 18,000 years bp. The Late Stone Age sites reveal low population levels, rudimentary technology, and harvesting confined to the intertidal zone and targeting overwhelmingly shellfish and crustaceans, with some hunting and scavenging (of washed-up seabirds, seals, and cetaceans). There is evidence of at least ten species of fish being caught by means of gorges, bone fish hooks, wooden spears, reed baskets, nets, and stone fish traps. Harvesting pressure varied between localities and over time but peaked in the millennium 3,000–2,000 years bp, when so-called shellfish megamiddens become common and a marine dietary signal is clearly detectable in human skeletal remains. The arrival of pastoralism (1,900–1,400 years bp) dramatically reduced human use of marine resources, which became seasonal and subject to the grazing needs of domesticated livestock. Philip Hine has also recently shown that some of the most visible assumed artifacts of the precolonial fisheries—fish traps—are in fact of historical origin and settler construction.2

There is a useful introduction to the archaeological literature of the Late Stone Age Benguela in “Impacts of Human Activities on Marine Animal Life in the Bengeula,” by C. L. Griffiths et al. (see “Further Reading”).

The Dutch Colonial Fisheries c. 1652–1814

The first European seafarers entered the seas of southern Africa in the late 15th century en route to Asia, but in the mid-17th century, the Dutch East India Company (DEIC) established a resupply base at Table Bay (Cape Town) to service its annual fleets. The company claimed the west coast to the Berg (c. 1700), Olifants (1750), and Buffels (1798) Rivers, as well as five bays north of the Orange River, including Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, in 1793, but had no means of enforcing its claims. The rich marine resources of the Benguela supplemented the initial DEIC settlement and were systematically exploited to provision the slave labor force imported from 1658 onward, but attempts to develop marine export trades were unsuccessful. The seal and seabird colonies on offshore islands within easy reach of Table Bay were dramatically reduced in number, and European fishing boats and catching technologies were introduced to harvest whales and fish. The DEIC’s strict mercantilism, however, constrained the level of exploitation by preventing the emergence of a free market in marine commodities within the colony. It was only at the end of the 18th century that American and European whalers discovered and decimated the migratory right whale populations on their summer breeding grounds in bays along the southern African coast, taking an estimated 12,000 animals in the quarter century after 1785.3

The sole historian of the Dutch colonial fisheries is Christoffel F. J. Muller, whose doctoral thesis was completed in 1938. The thesis is written in Afrikaans, but despite its antiquity remains valuable for its systematic working of a large and opaque archive. A few subsequent historians have written complementary histories of DEIC outstations, some of them coastal, again in Afrikaans.4 The earliest scholarship in English deals with the late-18th century right whale fishery, but is written predominantly by marine scientists concerned with reconstructing the scale and periodicity of the historical catch as a guide to management of the modern right whale population.5

The British Colonial Fisheries c. 1814–1910

The British takeover at the Cape in 1814 led to the abolition of both slavery and mercantilism and their replacement by free labor and trade. The combination of public land and abundant marine resources made the Benguela coastal margins attractive to both black ex-slaves and European merchants; the former as a site of independent subsistence production and the latter as a source of commodities for exchange. The colonial state facilitated the ingress of both in return for use fees. Unlike the Dutch East India Company (DEIC), the British were able to enforce their rentier interest on the coast; when an international fleet rushed Ichaboe and Malgas Islands for guano in 1843–1845 British navy warships imposed the rule of law and license fees on the diggers.6 Initial local merchant interest focused on marine commodities with established international markets; an estimated 1,580 right whales, 650,000 seals, and 110,231 tons of guano were taken from the Benguela over the course of the 19th century, largely for export.7 Cape Colony merchants also hunted elephant seal in the islands of the southern Indian Ocean.8

The mainstay of the 19th-century Benguela fisheries was the production of cured fish to ration agricultural labor. The domestic demand was supplied by farmer and subsistence fisheries, but the importation of more than 630,000 indentured Indian laborers to the sugar plantations of the southwest Indian Ocean during the 19th century created a massive new market for Cape merchants, who after 1840 exported 77,161 tons of cured fish to supply it. The ration fisheries were labor intensive, and it was this demand for labor that brought merchants into increasing conflict with subsistence fishers along the Benguela littoral as the mineral revolution and associated public works programs drained labor from the coast in the last quarter of the 19th century. Seeking to secure their labor supply, the largest merchants in the ration fisheries, Stephan Brothers, bought up all the land at the main fishing sites on the southern west coast and evicted any subsistence fishers who refused to sign a labor contract with the firm. The contract, coupled with free housing and payment in kind, enabled Stephan Brothers to create a debt-bonded proletariat in the fisheries by the end of the 19th century.

The ration fisheries were also constrained by the seasonal nature of pelagic fish stocks and pre-industrial catching technologies. Combined, these factors rendered them incapable of expanding output to meet the burgeoning demand for food in the new mining centers of the interior, which had been brought within reach by colonial state railway construction. These new markets encouraged the Cape colonial state to industrialize the fisheries in the final decade of the 19th century by appointing a British marine biologist and purchasing a British steam trawler to prospect for trawling grounds out to the 50-fathom line (300 feet). By 1904 there were nine steam trawlers fishing the Benguela, but the lack of refrigeration and high cost of rail transport stunted the development of a demersal trawling industry. The Cape colonial state also provided a marine fertilizer subsidy to colonial agriculture by taking over control of the offshore guano islands from private merchants in the mid-1890s and redirecting the annual harvest free to colonial wine and wheat farmers in the southwestern Cape.

There is a useful contemporary account of the Cape colonial fisheries written by a senior civil servant Wardlaw Thompson.9 The colonial guano trade has recently found a historian in Hendrik Snyders, and there are a number of histories of the 19th-century ration fisheries on the Cape Peninsula and west coast.10 The one glaring omission is the nascent demersal trawling industry, the history of which remains the exclusive domain of corporate praise singers due to the denial of access to company archives to scholars.11 The history of the colonial marine survey has been sketched by van Sittert.12

The British National Fisheries c. 1910–1948

The unification of the two British colonies (Cape and Natal) and two conquered Boer republics (Orange Free State and South African Republic) in 1910 unified previously separate markets on the subcontinent under a single authority, triggering the reorganization of the demersal trawl fishery into a new concern, Irvin and Johnson (I&J) in 1912. British trawling and mining capital vertically integrated demersal fish production and wholesale distribution, using the national railway network and associated refrigeration facilities to create a single urban demersal fish market that I&J monopolized until the mid-1960s. The new white nation state directly assisted I&J by reviving the marine survey in 1918 to prospect new demersal trawling grounds out to the 100 fathom line (600 feet). In 1922, I&J was listed on the London Stock Exchange with a capital of £550,000 (US$670,568); a decade later, its trawlers, although comprising less than 5 percent of the national fleet, produced half the national catch. The company dumped 30 to 50 percent of its catch (3,858–5,511 tons per annum) at sea, however, to protect its profits from an oversupply of fish on the national market. The combination of public subsidy and profiteering made I&J the target of sustained attack by both Afrikaner nationalist and white labor politicians after 1924, culminating in the proposed nationalization of the demersal industry in 1943 and 1944.

Although I&J was blamed for the collapse of catches and rising poverty in the ration fisheries after 1910, demersal trawling did not compete with them for resources, labor, or markets. Rather, the growing crisis in the ration fisheries was caused by a second, much weaker industrialization based on the canning of rock lobster for export to Europe. Although lobster canning began in the 1890s, it was only consolidated by British merchant capital after 1910 and the burgeoning demand for canned food in Europe created by the World War I. The lobster canneries competed directly with the ration fisheries for both fish and labor and, by motorizing their fishing fleets and equipping them with gill and purse seine nets in the 1920s, increasingly starved the latter of both. The new white national state was initially indifferent to the crisis in the ration fisheries, but deepening poverty among white fishers forced the state to intervene in the 1930s. At that time, the national state took over control of marine fisheries from the Cape provincial state and initiated a small-harbor construction program intended to assist the modernization of the ration fisheries. By the 1940s, however, its diagnosis of the problem shifted from lack of infrastructure to lack of capital, leading to a new proposal to reorganize the ration fisheries into producer cooperatives whose catch was distributed by a central state fish marketing board. This plan was abandoned when I&J defeated the attempted nationalization of its distribution network. Instead, the state established a Fisheries Development Corporation (FDC) to finance industrialization of the ration fisheries by private capital.

A third new area of fisheries industrialization after 1910 was whaling, where the introduction of steam-powered vessels vastly increased the range of shore processing factories, enabling them to target new species: humpbacks in the 1910s, blue and fin whales in the 1920s, and Southern Ocean whale stocks in the 1930s. The new white national state also continued the colonial guano subsidy to white agriculture, cross-subsidizing the cost of guano production with the revenue from the sale of seal skins and penguin eggs harvested from its offshore islands.

As indicated above, the history of I&J remains to be written, but that of the marine survey and the assault of Afrikaner nationalism and organized labor on the company during World War II has received initial treatment.13 The interwar industrialization of the inshore fisheries has been better covered, and so too the state’s plans to nationalize the fisheries during World War II.14 The history of the 20th-century whaling and guano industries, however, have been written exclusively by marine scientists concerned with cetacean and seabird management, and so are primarily concerned with reconstructing annual production as a proxy for species abundance.15

The Afrikaner Nationalist Fisheries c. 1948–1994

Afrikaner nationalism came to power in 1948 determined to foster Afrikaner capital (volkskapitalisme) and secure it a significant share of the national economy dominated by English capital. The fisheries were ideally suited to this purpose, having both undeveloped resources and a gatekeeper state with public funds dedicated to fisheries development. The cessation of imports and requisitioning of half the trawler fleet for seaward defense purposes during World War II encouraged rock lobster canners and others, including Afrikaner entrepreneurs, to start canning pilchard; reduction plants for fish oil and meal manufacture were added after the war. The new National Party government consolidated Afrikaner capital in the pilchard fishery and handed it the lion’s share of the newly opened Namibian pilchard fishery together with research, infrastructure, and financing support. In so doing, it increasingly discounted the sustainability of the pilchard resource to accommodate the access and profit demands of Afrikaner capital, leading to the fishery’s collapse in the 1960s.

Gaining capital access to the two established industrial fisheries, however, brought the Afrikaner nationalist state into direct conflict with English capital over the redistribution of lobster export rights in 1963 and the creation of Afrikaner trawling capital in 1965. English capital retaliated by launching a direct assault on the Namibian pilchard stock, using factory ships operating outside the territorial waters from 1966 to 1971. The discovery of a new deep-water rock lobster fishery on the south coast and increasing competition for demersal fish from an international fishing armada in the 1970s led to a new modus vivendi between the Afrikaner nationalist state and English fishing capital, culminating in the declaration of an exclusive economic zone in 1977. This was based on the state’s guarantee of a closed shop for incumbents in all the established fisheries in return for their adherence to conservation restrictions intended to ensure the sustainable use of the shrunken national marine resource base in perpetuity. Apartheid’s deepening political crisis in the 1980s soon put the rapprochement between state and capital under strain; the black capital supporting the new tricameral constitution (1983) could only be accommodated on the marine commons by redistributing shares in the scientifically determined total allowable catches for each commercial fish species. The loss of the key United States market to anti-apartheid sanctions between 1986 and 1991, and the Namibian fisheries to black nationalism in between 1990 and 1994 triggered the widespread and systematic looting of marine resources by incumbent white capital, which continued long into the post-apartheid era.

The history of the postwar industrialization of the pilchard fishery has been written for cannery row in South Africa, but not Namibia, where the only history of the post-1945 fisheries is by a political scientist.16 The postwar reorganization of the rock lobster fishery and Afrikaner capital’s belated penetration of its Anglo capital monopoly has also been covered, but, predictably, that of Afrikaner capital’s challenge to I&J has not.17 The disappearance of records after c. 1970 in the public archives make this the approximate terminal point of paper-based historical enquiries, fully half a century short of the present.

The Black Nationalist Fisheries c. 1994–2016

The end of the Cold War in 1989 led to South Africa’s withdrawal from Namibia (1990) and the abandonment of apartheid (1994), belatedly inaugurating a postcolonial black state in the fisheries. African nationalism enjoyed none of the advantages of its predecessor with regard to the fisheries; all stocks, with the possible exception of demersal hake, were overexploited, and the interventionist state in the fisheries had been systematically dismantled. African nationalism thus had neither the room nor means for maneuver in fostering black capital in the fisheries except to redistribute the access rights of incumbent white capital. Its attempt to do so in 1999 ended in disaster, however, when the combined deluge of applications and lawsuits incapacitated the fisheries administration. In a bid to depoliticize and stabilize the fisheries, the African National Congress changed tack and decided to redistribute ownership rather than access rights, and to grant the latter for ten years at a time. This so-called black economic empowerment (BEE) strategy saw white capital hastily transferring shares more or less genuinely into black hands to have their access rights confirmed by the first long-term rights allocation in 2004.

The postcolonial black state faced the same pressure to accommodate aspirant black capital in the fisheries as Afrikaner nationalism had a half-century earlier, but without the resources to do so. This has led to a number of poaching insurgencies against high-value inshore resources like abalone and rock lobster, as well as toothfish in the Prince Edward Islands exclusive economic zone—all of which have proved beyond the capacity of the state to resolve either through the granting of access rights or repression.18 This failure reflects a wider decay in the state’s marine research and policing capacity on the increasingly privatized maritime commons, to the extent that the renewal of long-term (decadal) access rights in 2014 has yet to be completed. More recently, the African National Congress, frustrated with the meager returns from the fisheries, has signaled via the unveiling of Operation Phakisa that black capital’s ocean economy will be based not on fish but shipping, offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, and marine protection services.19

While there has been an outpouring of scholarship on the post-apartheid fisheries, it has come almost exclusively from social scientists, who have been mainly concerned with the redistribution and recognition of access rights. Lance van Sittert has argued that the post-apartheid moment recapitulates in many respects that of the mid-20th century, and with the same likely outcome of confirming the status quo.20 He has also critiqued the advocacy of co-management in the 1990s by comparing the post-1994 fisheries with the successful fisheries co-management regimes of the Cape colonial and provincial states in the half-century after 1890.21

Discussion of the Literature

In common with the rest of Africa, there has always been and remains a profound terrestrial bias in the South African historiography. That on fisheries is consequently vanishingly small and impoverished, there being no better indicators of its marginality to the dominant white national historiographies than the pioneering role of Afrikaner nationalist historians and the continued prominence and production of company histories.22 The fisheries historiography is further heavily skewed to the Benguela fisheries, often treated as synonymous with the national fisheries, and mostly in the form of unpublished postgraduate theses, making it largely invisible outside of South Africa. This literature is with very few exceptions of low quality, marred mainly by a reliance on and uncritical use of published official sources. The only substantial published critical historiography dates from the 1990s and employs an historical materialist frame derived from the revisionist turn in the wider national historiography, but with the same Benguela bias of the earlier fisheries historiography.

There has been a post-1994 efflorescence in a wider social science scholarship on fisheries reform, some of which is of interest to historians for its recovery and reconstruction of historical access rights from around the whole of the national coast in support of black claims for the recognition and/or restitution of these rights.23 Marine science has had a longstanding interest in historical resource use as a guide to the management of particular marine mammals and birds, but there has been a wider historical turn post-1994 driven by a shift from species to ecosystems management and consequent interest in the historical periodicity of the economically important Benguela large marine ecosystem. This has prompted a wider effort to recover and reconstruct proxy historical resource harvest data as seen as an essential antidote to shifting baselines in current management objectives and practices.

Primary Sources

There are extensive fisheries archives on the national archives of South Africa repositories in Cape Town (KAB and TBK) and Pretoria (SAB). In the former, the Cape colonial state’s secretary for agriculture (AGR) is particularly rich. For the post-1910 Cape provincial state to mid-century, the director of sea fisheries (FDS) and Nature Conservation Department (PAN) are helpful, while the superintendent of Guano Islands (GIS) straddles the two regimes. The Cape Town Records Centre (TBK) contains the superintendent of Guano Islands (GIS) and the Cape Province’s Nature Conservation Department (PAF) records for the third quarter of the 20th century as well as the Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch Marine Development (SF). The key series in the national state archives in Pretoria are those of the Departments of Mines (MNW), Trade and Industry (HEN), and Board of Trade and Industry (RHN). While the national archives can be searched online, none of the holdings are as yet available online.

In addition to the archives, there are numerous published state series on the fisheries. The most important for the Cape colonial state are the annual reports of the Government Marine Biologist (1896–1906); for the Cape provincial state, the Marine Biological Reports (1913–1918); and for the national state, the annual reports of the director of fisheries (1920ff.) and the Fisheries Development Corporation (1945–1987) together with the various official investigations into fishing harbors (1927–1929), the fishing industry (1934), the Crawfish Export Control and Sea Fisheries Acts (1939), and the Fishing Industry Development Bill (1944), which either printed their verbatim evidence or deposited it the national archives. The protracted fisheries crisis in the final third of the 20th century also spawned a host of official investigations in 1968–1972, 1980, 1984, 1986, and 1993, but none of these published their evidence and only the first deposited it in the archives. Beyond the state publications, the industry journal the South African Shipping News and Fishing Industry Review, which began publication in 1946, and its annual digest, the Fishing Industry Handbook and Buyers’ Guide, which appeared intermittently from 1951, are indispensable sources for historians on post-1945 fisheries development.

Further Reading

Griffiths, C. L., L. van Sittert, P. B. Best, A. C. Brown, B. M. Clark, P. A. Cook, R. J. M. Crawford, J. H. M. David, B. R. Davies, M. H. Griffiths, K. Hutchings, A. Jerardino, N. Kruger, S. Lamberth, R. W. Leslie, R. Melville-Smith, R. Tarr, C. D. Van der Lingen, and J. D. M. Gordon. “Impacts of Human Activities on Marine Animal Life in the Benguela: A Historical Overview.” Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 42 (2004): 303–392.Find this resource:

Moorsom, R. A Future for Namibia 5: Exploiting the Sea. London: Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1984.Find this resource:

Muller, C. F. J. Die Vroeë Geskiedenis van die Visserye in Suid-Afrika. Master’s thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1938. Published without tables in Archives Yearbook for South African History 1 (1942).Find this resource:

Payne, A. I. L., and R. J. M. Crawford, eds. Oceans of Life off Southern Africa. Cape Town: Vlaeberg, 1989.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “Making Like America: The Industrialisation of the St Helena Bay Fisheries.” Journal of Southern African Studies 19 (1993a): 422–446.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “More in the Breach than in the Observance: Crayfish, Conservation and Capitalism, c. 1890–c. 1939.” Environmental History 17 (1993b): 21–46.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “South Africa’s Seagoing Proletariat: The Trawler and Line Fishermen’s Union.” International Journal of Maritime History 6 (1994): 1–44.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “The Handmaiden of Industry: Marine Science and Fisheries Development in South Africa 1895–1939.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (1995): 531–558.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It: Comparing Fisheries Reforms in South Africa.” Marine Policy 26 (2002): 295–305.Find this resource:

van Sittert, L. “The Tyranny of the Past: Why Local Histories Matter in the South African Fisheries.” Ocean and Coastal Management 46 (2003): 199–219.Find this resource:

Snyders, H. Stink and Smelly—but Profitable: The Cape Guano Trade c. 1843–1910. PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 2011.Find this resource:

Thompson, W. W. The Sea Fisheries of the Cape Colony from Van Riebeeck’s Day to the Eve of Union with a Chapter on Trout and other Freshwater Fishes. Cape Town: Maskew Miller, 1913.Find this resource:


(1.) A. I. L. Payne and R. J. M. Crawford, eds., Oceans of Life off South Africa (Capetown: Vlaeberg, 1989), 12–27.

(2.) See P. Hine et al., “Antiquity of Stone-Walled Tidal Fish Traps on the Cape Coast, South Africa,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 65 (2010): 35–44.

(3.) C. L. Griffiths et al., “Impacts of Human Activities on Marine Life in the Benguela: A Historical Overview,” Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 42 (2004): 309.

(4.) A. P. Roux, Saldanhabaai, St Helenabaai en Dasseneiland 1652–1806 (Master’s thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1970); and D. Sleigh, Die Buiteposte in die Ekonomie van die Kaapse Verversingstasie 1652–1795 (PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 1987). Published as Die Buiteposte: VOC-buiteposte onder Kaapse Bestuur, 16521795 (Pretoria: HAUM, 1993).

(5.) See for example R. Richards and T. du Pasquier, “Bay Whaling off Southern Africa c. 1785–1805,” South African Journal of Marine Science 8 (1989): 231–250; and P. B. Best, “The Presence of Right Whales in Summer on the West Coast of South Africa: The Evidence from Historical Records,” African Journal of Marine Science 28 (2006): 159–166.

(6.) R. Craig, “The African Guano Trade,” The Mariner’s Mirror 50 (1964): 25–55; and J. Burman and S. Levin, The Saldanha Bay Story (Cape Town: Human and Rosseau, 1974).

(7.) For the number of whales, see P. B. Best and G. J. B. Ross, “Catches of Right Whales from Shore-based Establishments in Southern Africa, 1792–1975,” Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Report 10 (1986): 275–289; for the number of seals, see J. David and L. van Sittert, “A Reconstruction of the Cape (South African) Fur Seal Harvest, 1653–1899 and a Comparison with the Twentieth Century Harvest,” South African Journal of Science, 104 (2008): 107–110; and for the quantity of guano, see L. van Sittert and R. J. M. Crawford, “A Historical Reconstruction of Guano Production on the Namibian Islands, 1844–1895,” South African Journal of Science 99 (2003): 1–4.

(8.) See T. J. M. Rousset, Might Is Right: A Study of the Cape Town/Crozets Elephant Seal Oil Trade (1832–1869) (Master’s thesis, University of Cape Town, 2011).

(9.) W. W. Thompson, The Sea Fisheries of the Cape Colony from Van Riebeeck’s Day to the Eve of Union with a Chapter on Trout and other Freshwater Fishes (Cape Town: Maskew Miller, 1913).

(10.) H. Snyders, Stink and Smelly—but Profitable: The Cape Guano Trade c. 1843–1910 (PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 2011); see J. Kinahan, “The Historical Archaeology of Nineteenth Century Fisheries at Sandwich Harbour on the Namibian Coast,” Cimbebasia 13 (1991): 1–27; A. Kirkaldy, The Sea Is in Our Blood: Community and Craft in Kalk Bay 1880–1939 (Master’s thesis, University of Cape Town, 1988); L. van Sittert, Gebrei in die Aambag: Farmers, Fish and Fishermen in the Hout Bay Valley 1880–1956 (Honours diss., University of Cape Town, 1985); and L. van Sittert, Labour, Capital and the State in the St Helena Bay Fisheries, 1856–1956 (PhD diss., University of Cape Town, 1992).

(11.) For company histories of the demersal trawl fishery, see F. Gill, Ovenstones: A Story of the Sea (Cape Town: Ovenstone Holdings, 1958); Irvin and Johnson, South African Fish and Fishing (Cape Town: Irvin and Johnson, 1963); and R. Lees, Fishing for Fortunes: The Story of the Fishing Industry in Southern Africa—and the Men who Made it (London: Purnell, 1969). For a recent reconstruction of the early history of the Mossel Bay trawl fishery from public records, see N. Visser, “The Origins of the Present: Economic Conflicts in the Fisheries of the South African South Coast, circa 1910 to 1950,” Maritime Studies 14 (2015).

(12.) L. van Sittert, “The Handmaiden of Industry: Marine Science and Fisheries Development in South Africa 1895–1939,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 26 (1995): 531–558.

(13.) L. van Sittert, “The Handmaiden of Industry”; and L. van Sittert, “South Africa’s Seagoing Proletariat: The Trawler and Line Fishermen’s Union,” International Journal of Maritime History 6 (1994): 1–44.

(14.) L. van Sittert, “Making Like America: The Industrialisation of the St Helena Bay Fisheries,” Journal of Southern African Studies 19 (1993): 422–446; L. van Sittert, “More in the Breach than in the Observance: Crayfish, Conservation and Capitalism, c. 1890–c. 1939,” Environmental History 17 (1993): 21–46; and L. van Sittert, “Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It: Comparing Fisheries Reforms in South Africa,” Marine Policy 26 (2002): 295–305.

(15.) Payne and Crawford, Oceans of Life.

(16.) van Sittert, “Making Like America”; and R. Moorsom, A Future for Namibia 5: Exploiting the Sea (London: Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1984).

(17.) For Afrikaner capital penetration of the post-war lobster fishery, see L. van Sittert, “Slawe van die Fabriek: The State, Monopoly Capital and the Subjugation of Labour in the Hout Bay Valley Crayfish Fishing Industry, 1946–1956,” in Studies in the History of Cape Town, vol. 6, ed. C. Saunders (Cape Town: University of Cape Town, 1986), 112–149; L. van Sittert, “To Live This Poor Life: Remembering the Hottentots Huisie Squatter Fishery, Cape Town, c. 1934–1965,” Social History 26 (2001): 1–21; and L. van Sittert, “Political Corruption and the Moral Economy of Apartheid: The Case of Dawie Walters, the Lobster King of South Africa,” South African Historical Journal 67 (2015): 139–157.

(18.) See S. Raemaekers et al., “Review of the Causes of the Rise of the Illegal South African Abalone Fishery and Consequent Closure of the Rights-based Fishery,” Ocean and Coastal Management 54 (2011): 433–445.

(20.) van Sittert, “Those Who Cannot Remember.”

(21.) L. van Sittert, “The Tyranny of the Past: Why Local Histories Matter in the South African Fisheries,” Ocean and Coastal Management 46 (2003): 199–219.

(22.) C. F. J. Muller, Die Vroeë Geskiedenis van die Visserye in Suid-Afrika (Master’s thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1938); see also B. and E. Silverman, Memoirs of a Pioneer in the Fish Canning Industry of South Africa (Cape Town: Saldanha Bay Canning Company, 1956); Gill, Ovenstones; Irvin and Johnson, South African Fish and Fishing; Lees, Fishing for Fortunes; K. van Zyl, Marine Products Die Eerste 50 Jaar (Cape Town: Marine Products, 1992); and B. Sacks, Before Memories Grow Dim: The Story of a Family Business (Cape Town: Saldanha Group, 1993).

(23.) For a useful overview of this post-apartheid scholarship, see M. Sowman et al., “Shallow Waters: Social Science Research in South Africa’s Marine Environment,” African Journal of Marine Science 35 (2013): 385–402.