Hastings on Food

2015-11-11 06:01

SALUTATIONS kelp forests. The humble mussel is by far the most accessible and easily collected resource along our coast line. It is the level of harvesting and the yields that vary between the various regions.

On the West Coast the invasive Mediterranean mussel is displacing our local intertidal community. While on the South and East Coast, where the brown mussel is prevalent, there is clear evidence of heavy exploitation.

Mussels are a marine bivalve mollusk that use their large gills for respiration and to filter feed. Most of the body consists of Gonad which makes them exceptionally productive, producing abundant planktonic larvae which settle to form tiny mussels know as spats, which then attach themselves to the rocks where they remain for the remainder of their lives.

Along our shores four mussel species are found - the ribbed mussel, the black mussel, the Mediterranean mussel and the brown mussel.

Along the West Coast the toxic red tides hamper the mussel stocks, as the mussels filter out the red tide organisms while retaining the toxins for about three to four months. A person eating as little as two contaminated mussels can prove to be fatal. Thankfully the human population is low and the harvesting is very limited.

Regrettably along the South and East Coasts where red tides seldom occur­ the human population is enormous resulting in the intense collection of mussel stocks.

This has in the past led to conflicts between conservationist and the authorities, and with the permit charges as well as 50-bag limit subsistence gatherers can’t collect enough to produce income or feed a family.

Today especially on the South Coast we are faced with the dilemma of depleted mussel beds, and while some proposed projects are under way to re-sustain the beds, the required authorisation is still being discussed.

The success of these projects depends largely on the commitment from local communities. Once they have bought into the development of potential sustainable income, I have no doubt the results will be successful.

It is well known that South African squid is considered to be one of the best tasting calamari in the world. Sadly none of it ends up in our shops or restaurants as it is all exported mainly to Europe where it fetches a premium price. We eat imported lower-quality squid and accept it because we really don’t know the difference.

The squid fishing industry is very tough as in some seasons the usual 750 tons could be half the amount, whereby fishing yields are at a loss, most of the catch is along the garden route and Eastern Cape shorelines.

Some debate that because of mismanagement and no control of fleet sizes stocks are simply being depleted quicker than they can recover.

Our squid is characterised by an elongated mantle with fins, which are rhomboidal in shape and longer than broad. The arms are short, with long tentacles with expanded clubs and enlarged club suckers.

They are caught using the hand-line jig method and when caught are immediately individually quick blast-frozen to -30°C and graded and boxed for export once the ship arrives back at port.

Apart from the squid most of our rock lobsters (known as crayfish, or kreef) reside at depths of 90 metres-plus and are commercially caught using baited lobster pots to yield approximately 800 tons each year.

We can be proud that our sustainable variety of seafood attracts many gourmet tourists wishing to taste our natural products fresh from the ocean to the table whether it be oysters, mussels, prawns or the ultimate indulgence fresh crayfish cooked on an open fire with lashings of olive oil and lemon butter.

Our West Coast and South Coast crayfish are sustainable, however, the East Coast variety is on the red list (a huge no-no) and can only be hand collected.

If you wish to dive for lobsters a permit is required and can be purchased from any post office. The season is from mid-November until the end of April with a bag limit of four per day and a size restriction of 80mm carapace length.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to be offered crayfish for sale along stretches of the South Coast highway. These are definitely illegal and seldom are the stipulated size, additionally it is unlikely that they have been cleaned properly and will contain impurities that can cause complications with food-bourne illnesses.

Invariably buying illegal crayfish contributes to further illegal harvesting as well as creating unsustainable populations.

The best place to eat this delicacy is when they are in season in towns and villages along the West Coast. There are also regular festivals celebrating our crayfish where again they can be enjoyed with good company and chilled beverages

This past week saw the Wild Coast team accommodating the all-important Western Indian Ocean Marine Sciences Association (WIOMSA) 2015 conference. It ran for five days and had about 550 delegates from all relative countries and regions that form part of the association.

Their aim is the advancement and regional co-operation of all aspects of socio-economic marine sciences and to support sustainable development in the western Indian Ocean, while promoting interdisciplinary as well as multidisciplinary approaches.

Mamsa or the Marine and Coastal Science for Management Programme is the mechanism that provides funding and technical support for research, training and communications in the western Indian Ocean region.

It was established to reduce the predominance of narrowly focused natural science and is geared towards advancing the knowledge that is directly relevant to society and resource management. It is funded by the Swedish government and administered by WIOMSA through a programme committee of 10 internationally accredited scientists from both the western Indian Ocean region as well as elsewhere

By 2020 WIOMSA will be widely recognised as the leader in promoting these sciences, and by contributing to sustaining and taking care of this marine environment we recognise the importance it will have in the years to come.

Hundreds.

Mussels with white wine sauce

•1 kg processed mussels (if using fresh, remove the beard)

•1 chopped red onion

•chopped parsley

•chopped garlic

•120 ml fresh cream

•Bay leaf

•1 glass white wine

•1 cup fish stock

•olive oil

•butter

•rainbow pepper

•Khoisan sea salt

•fish spice

•tomato deseeded and cubed

Method

•Fry the red onions and garlic in butter and olive oil

•Add the wine

•Add the fish stock

•Add the bay leaf

•Add the parsley

•Add the mussels

•Add the pepper

•Add fish spice

•Add tomatoes and cream

•Simmer for 2 minutes

•Check the seasoning

•Serve with crunchy bread

PS: next time you make a batter­ for fish, or calamari, use buttermilk and vegetable spice in your mixture.

If you are crumbing fish, prawns or calamari mix into the crumbs some toasted desecrated coconut, and crushed corn flakes, season with vegetable and fish spice.

On the West Coast the invasive Mediterranean mussel is displacing our local intertidal community. While on the South and East Coast, where the brown mussel is prevalent, there is clear evidence of heavy
exploitation

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