20 April 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Jack-in-the-box crayfish man

If you love seafood, head straight for the West Coast. The cold Atlantic upwelling creates perfect conditions for marine abundance, and Paternoster is one of the prettiest villages to enjoy it in. But not all crustaceans offered to you are legally harvested…

There he is, waggling his illegal crustacean-for-sale. Photo: Chris Marais

Paternoster, to the naked eye, is an idyllic seaside village. Set on the seafood-rich West Coast, it boasts pretty little white-washed houses with dark thatch and crayon-bright shutters.

There are fishermen’s boats pulled up in the curved bay and an eccentric hotel boasting an equally eccentric drinking spot called the Panty Bar.

Many who loved the town in the old days complain bitterly about the influx of rich yuppies, but that’s a story for another time.

The crayfish man, lurking outside Oep ve Koep. Photo: Chris Marais

The town came to mind recently because I’d stumbled across an excellent blog, Food with a Story. Two foodie travellers, Carlin and Deni Archer, have taken to the road in search of ethical food, artisanal food, organic food. Good South African food with interesting origins, in short.

They’ll be ending the trip in May, and so far it’s been a riveting journey. They’ve written about olive oil producers, abalone aquaculture, a place making buffalo-milk mozzarella, a coffee roaster, a deli offering heirloom vegetables, a charcuterie. As I read about their adventures, my mouth waters.

Paternoster does boast excellent seafood. Most of it legal. Photo: Chris Marais

They also went to Paternoster. And they too seemed to have stumbled across the resident jack-in-the-box crayfish man. And if you go, you’ll likely see him too – although perhaps not the same guy.

Wherever we went, he seemed to pop up, waggling a crayfish at us and hissing a price. It was out of season, and we tried to ignore him. But somehow he figured us for seafood lovers. There he’d be around a corner. Then he’d suddenly pop up from behind a dune. We wandered into a shop and bistro, the Oep ve Koep  (a must-visit, by the way) and when we came out, there he was, waiting for us. The man was relentless.

Wherever we went, he seemed to pop up, waggling a crayfish at us and hissing a price. It was out of season, and we tried to ignore him.

He was only a poor fisherman, looking for an extra bit of income. But if you’re in the same situation, remember that however much you are tempted, you can only buy from someone with a commercial permit. It’s also your right to see the permit. This fisherman didn’t have any permit, let alone a non-commerical one. So although the price was tempting and the man clearly needed the money, we reluctantly shook our heads.

Deni and Carlin had the same experience, and were just as tempted. But they also turned him down.

For more info on ethical seafood choices, check out the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi).

The handsome curve of the bay at Paternoster. Photo: Chris Marais

Category: Food & Wine, Responsible Tourism

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