Is your snoek really a snoek?

2012-11-25 20:41


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Johannesburg - Although snoek – a fish caught in the Western Cape’s cold waters – is one of the province’s most well-known delicacies, more than half this fish found in some retail chains in Cape Town are imported from New Zealand.

Snoek and New Zealand Barracouta are the same species, but the label “snoek” gives the impression the fish is locally caught.

Woolworths spokesperson Neeran Naidoo said: “We’d love to offer customers locally caught snoek. However, snoek is not caught in commercial quantities locally to ensure supplies through the year.

"Local commercial fishermen focus on other fish species.”

But senior lecturer and fisheries expert at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, Dr Moeniba Isaacs, disagrees.

“There is enough snoek caught in South Africa for Woolworths and Pick n Pay,” says Isaacs.

The Fishing Industry Handbook 2011 shows that in 2010, total snoek landed in South Africa was 10?292.609kgs – nearly 65% by informal line fishers, much of the rest by commercial hake trawlers – and the total Barracouta imported from New Zealand was 5?690.968kgs.

“The issue is with having ice at the landing site. There is a lack of investment in that cold chain. It is cheaper to buy imported snoek,” said Isaacs.

Even buying snoek from wholesaler and retailer Snoekies does not guarantee locally caught product.

Snoekies’ procurement director Marco Paioni said up to 70% of their snoek was imported barracouta from New Zealand, adding, “the two species are identical”.

“All our snoek is local, salted fresh and frozen,” said butchery general manager of Pick n Pay, George van Diggelen.

“We are not importing from New Zealand, there is enough local product. We buy from wholesalers.”

Pick n Pay buys its snoek through Snoek Wholesalers (Pty) Ltd.

When City Press spoke to Snoek Wholesalers the spokesperson confirmed the company supplied Pick n Pay but would not disclose where the snoek was caught.

“That is confidential information.”

But packaging labels on snoek bought in Pick n Pay state the fish come from New Zealand.

With snoek being a “traditionally and culturally important” part of South Africa since the 1600s, Isaacs argues that “snoek” should be a local, trademarked product name that can only be used for fish caught in local waters, much the same as champagne refers only to sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France.

“The labelling should be honest. If it is from New Zealand it should say barracouta.” – WCN

Read more on:    western cape  |  fish
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