Fishers and Scientists in the Same Boat

Growing up in the townships of Philippi and Kraaifontien in Cape Town, as a young hyperactive child, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be in a boat with fishers and scientists, pulling a BRUV rig 33 metres from the sea floor.

As a young boy I always had an interest in wild animals and I knew from primary school already that I wanted to work with animals (Wild cats in particular such as Lions and Tigers). Fish however were never my favourite animals and the ocean was a no-go-area, because as a child growing up in the township only visiting the beach in December (only to run away from the water most of the time), I did not know how to swim and to me for you to get on a boat and even study fish, you had to be able to swim which was quite scary.

Many years later I have the honour of working for WWF-SA, Marine Programme as the Project Coordinator: Small Scale Fisheries. I now have the privilege of being in the same boat with fishers and scientists working on the Baited remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs) project in the Kogelberg. The project is an innovative community-driven research partnership between marine scientists and small-scale fishers to gather scientific data about local marine resources in the Kogelberg region of the Western Cape.

The main objective of the project is to draw attention to the unique partnership between the scientists and small-scale fishers in the Kogelberg region in order to grow an appreciation for the challenges of coastal fishing communities and the innovative ways of engaging them into the monitoring and research of species. At the end of 2017, we completed year one of the project in January 2018 and presented the results to participating fishers. The project is currently in the second year of its implementation phase, which consists of bi-annual deployments carried out in summer and winter.

The summer 2018 deployment took place on the 30th of March. For the deployment we had two local vessels, each with a local skipper, one scientist from the South African Shark Conservancy (SASC) and three local small scale fishers as part of the crew. The Moving Sushi vessel also went out on the day as a back-up vessel, to ensure that the two local vessels were doing okay and also deployed a few BRUVs, which is when I again got the chance to pull up a few rigs myself.

Sindisa Sigam – Project Coordinator: Small Scale Fisheries, WWF Marine Programme