It is surprising that in this day and age some fishers in False Bay still use a centuries-old method to catch from the sea. Trekking is a traditional way of catching fish which has been done for centuries. Eco-friendly, sustainable and fair, everybody gets something: the seals, seagulls, the fishers, and the owners of the boat and the nets. Modern technology is hardly involved. It’s man against the elements.
“Boss Nartje” then drives the truck with the fishers, towing the boat to the beach to the spot indicated by Bream. There are various signs the Spotter takes into account: the colour of the sea – whether it’s too clean, which means no fish; whether there is kelp or plankton, which is a good sign, as is the presence of seagulls. Currents and tides also play a role.
In the boat are two rowers and a third fisher. They row about 200 metres to the left. When far enough out, the third man throws the net into the sea.
Afterwards, he shares the proceeds of the fish sale, if there is any, with the fishers. They also get fish which they can sell directly.
The truck, boat and the nets belong to Jeffrey Petty, an elderly fisherman, who built the boat himself in the 1960s. Over the years he made changes and improvements to the boat with help from Anthony Baron, one of the fishermen.
The trekkers never know for sure if they will get a good catch. Sometimes they will wait a long time on the beach, checking out the sea and eventually decide it’s not worth their while to take out the boat. They will have waited in vain and not made any money that day. Perhaps they’ll look for white mussels to sell.
Crews consist of 15 to 25 fishers. They still manage to catch a fair amount of fish, but these days much less because of the big trawlers that go out at night.
Rules and regulations, and restricting the allotted stretch of beach where the Trekkers are allowed to fish, has greatly limited them. In the 1970s there were over 80 trekker crews; now there are only four crews left.
This article first appeared in GroundUp. Click here for the original article and support Groundup in its thought-provoking original journalism.