To increase community benefit from, and involvement in the abalone industry - following employment losses in coastal areas, a ban on wild harvesting, increased poaching and a decline in wild populations of abalone - and to support the growth of employment in an abalone ranching industry the Department of Science and Technology’s Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme is supporting a project that intends to expand abalone aquaculture in the Northern and in the Western Cape. R10 million in support has been set aside for the first year of the project.

Several coastal communities in the Northern Cape have been hit by a combination of job losses in both mining and fishing.  The establishment of abalone hatcheries at selected sites in Hondeklip Bay in the Northern Cape and possibly Hawston in the Western Cape aims to stimulate the development of aquaculture industry.

Aquaculture, which entails cultivating fish, shellfish and aquatic plants, has great potential to contribute to establishing vibrant provincial economies.  In the short-term this project will establish a leading abalone hatchery in each of these regions as a first step towards stimulating the development of aquaculture. In the long-term the project wants to stimulate aquaculture’s development in a way that reflects inclusive growth in areas where communities have been affected by job losses in the fishing industry. For example, an established abalone hatchery provides a reasonable case for rearing worms for the bait industry and mussels for human
consumption.

The Northern Cape offers good conditions for shore-based aquaculture in the form of favourable biological conditions, nutrient-rich unpolluted seawater, the downscaling of diamond-mining and access to mine-related infrastructure.  In an area where unemployment is extreme – between 75 and 80% – it is estimated that the Hondeklip Bay abalone project will create at least 120 permanent and 50
temporary jobs. The project also promises to create downstream small businesses and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) opportunities. Employment starts with substantial managerial, clerical and supervisory staff and increases to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled staff employed during the establishment and construction of a site.

About abalone (Haliotis midae)

Abalone is a herbivorous species that grazes at night and remains inactive by day both in the wild and in tanks.  Young, newly metamorphosed, abalone are reared on diatoms cultured on plates or in bags and weaned to seaweed or formulated feeds when their shells are between 4 and 6 mm long and the creatures are between five and six months old.  South African abalone farms’ greatest production cost is feed, which is a compound formulated diet, harvested kelp (Ecklonia maxima), cultured seaweed (Gracillaria and Ulva spp.), or a combination of these. The development of abalone farming has stimulated research into abalone’s
digestive physiology, its feeding behaviour and optimisation of the use of natural and formulated diets in conditions of intensive culture.

The hatcheries will have the capacity to produce about 6 million abalone spat (10 mm) and juveniles (25 mm) a year. To support abalone ranching initiatives both hatcheries will include the development of nurseries. The development of the hatcheries is based on the transfer of existing hatchery technologies, although the project aims to produce improved broodstock developed by the Innovation Fund Genetic Improvement of Abalone Programme (http://www.dst.gov.za/other/gpc/Aquaculture%20Activities.pdf).

The hatcheries at Hondeklip Bay and Hawston will be guided through a three to five-year set up period to facilitate commercialisation, BEE and community participation. Because of the project abalone hatchery technologies will be transferred to previously marginalised and disadvantaged communities.