South Africans have an interesting relationship with seafood - on one hand, we are all told endlessly that many of the delicacies we love are unsustainable, harmful to the environment and (gosh) illegal. On the other hand, seafood is a big part of our cultural heritage - who doesn't enjoy bokkoms, fishcakes, snoekbraai, pickled fish, fish curry or some South African sushi, like the Cape Town roll?
Here are some authentically South African seafoods that are sustainable, delicious and readily available:
The snoek fishery in South Africa and New Zealand (where a lot of our frozen snoek comes from - often under the name "barracouta") is well managed and regarded as sustainable and research is being done to improve the sustainability of these fisheries even further.
Pro-tip: We've been told that an essential side dish for any snoek braai is roasted sweet potatoes.
Line-caught Cape yellowtail are not only delicious, but they have proven to be resilient to fishing pressures in South African waters. Local is lekker with line-caught yellowtail which represents the best of both worlds - a challenging game fish for fishermen, and a scrumptious meal for everyone else.
- We've added a school of yellowtail to our Predator Exhibit to help you recognise these iconic fish.
Pro-tip: Yellowtail makes an excellent substitute for tuna in sushi.
Hottentot, sometimes called black bream or Kaapse galjoen, are sustainable line-caught fish. They are commonly sold as "linefish" or "fish of the day" at restaurants on South Africa's West Coast and southern Cape - so it's often worth asking if you don't see them listed on the standard menu.
Pro-tip: Hottentot is sustainable and yummy, but don't be tricked into ordering "brown hottentot" which is a related species, but is currently overexploited.
There are a lot of mussels available in South Africa - black and white mussels (our two local species) as well as numerous imported and farmed varieties. Almost all major sources of mussels are sustainable, so enjoy!
Pro-tip: You can actually collect mussells yourself with a bait collection permit obtainable from any Post Office. Not only can you get yourself lots of cheap, yummy seafood, but you can help protect our shoreline by harvesting invasive alien species such as the Mediterreanean mussel.
Both species of Cape hake, which you might call stockvis or haddock, are sustainably caught by Marine Stewardship Council-certified trawlers. Keep an eye out for their blue logo the next time you pick up hake at the supermarket.
Pro-tip: Lightly cured hake (especially fresh hake) makes an excellent kingklip substitute.
What else can and can't you eat?
It's difficult to decide what you can and can't eat sustainably - especially when you're faced with fresh fish or a restaurant menu and aren't able to check the labelling or get details on where it is from. Here are a few tips to help you always pick sustainable seafood with ease: