A NELSON Mandela Bay fishing company is in the final stages of a pilot programme to explore the possibilities of large-scale anchovy fishing and processing to supply domestic and international markets.
During its three-week trial phase, Eyethu Fishing – based at the Port Elizabeth Harbour – has already identified a need for mass production of anchovies for human consumption, it says.
Anchovy is a good source of protein and rich in Omega 3 and fatty acids and is readily available along the Algoa Bay coastline.
Eyethu Fishing general manager Pancho Rosales said the project could lead to the company employing between 200 and 300 additional staff more than its current complement of 150.
He said the company had taken the decision to begin the trial run after a recent seminar held by the Fisheries Department in Cape Town.
The department encouraged the fishing industry to explore the viability of exploiting anchovy on a bigger scale for human consumption.
Rosales said at present the industry was making use of only 40% of the quota set by the department as total allowable catch (TAC).
Almost everything caught was converted directly into fish-meal – used as fertiliser or animal feed – or fish oil.
At the same time, South Africa imports about R80-million worth of anchovies in various products and forms every year.
Rosales said the project was a ground-breaking one for Eyethu Fishing, which comprises a processing and freezing factory as well as a retail and wholesale fish shop.
“Prospects for our company and for the Eastern Cape are especially exciting and we have high expectations of becoming pioneers when it comes to processing anchovy for human consumption. It is going to take some changes as we need some additional infrastructure.” That would involve a R2.5-million investment.
“We have enough fishermen and fleet to handle the work but we will need production staff for the sorting, handling and processing work. Our staff numbers and production capacity will be dependent on our catch numbers.”
Anchovy project manager Stanley Shombe said because anchovy was a smaller, softer, delicate and oily fish, the work would be more labour intensive.
“The additional workers will need to undergo skills training, especially when it comes to handling the fish. The process must also be quick when it comes to chilling the fish in preparation for processing. If you look after the fish, the end result will be an excellent product.
“We want to process around 20 to 30 tons a day, depending on how many we catch. Anchovy is a migratory fish, so feeding patterns and the weather play roles. They are mainly located around 65km to 130km out,” Shombe said.
“We have identified big markets in Portugal, Spain and even China. There are also clients coming to view what we have produced during our pilot phase. Our aim is to provide a world-class product and we will do everything in association with the SA Bureau of Standards and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications.”
Shombe said the company was satisfied with the quality it had produced so far and would now focus on optimising its production line.
Fisheries spokeswoman Carol Moses said the department was in the process of finalising a report to look at the transformation of the local anchovy fishing industry to include the production of the fish for human consumption.