In South Africa, Snoek is caught by fishermen along the Western and Northern Cape coastline, it is a delicacy and a source of protein for many South African families, particularly the poor living next to these coastlines. It is also a source of livelihoods for fishermen and their families.

You will find the species sold from the back of a ‘bakkie” by langanas, from FishHoek in the Western Cape to Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape. It is sold fresh, smoked, canned and frozen. Snoek forms part of culture in many Cape communities and you will find its pricing souring during the Easter holidays.

This week, The Hook provides some information on this “Cape” species.

Snoek, is a long, thin species of snake mackerel found in the seas of the Southern Hemisphere. This fish can reach a length of 200 centimetres though most do not exceed 75 centimetres. The maximum recorded weight for this species is 6 kilograms (13lb).

It is found near continental shelves or around islands and feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and small fish like anchovy and pilchard. This species will form schools near the bottom or midwater; sometimes even near the surface at night. It prefers sea water temperature between 13 and 18 °C (55 and 64 °F).

Snoek is found off the coast of Namibia and the coast of the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa.

“Under Dutch rule, in place since 1753, the Dutch East Indian Company (DEIC) controlled fishing rights. Slaves and farm workers were entitled to fish, provided it did not interfere with their farming activities. Snoek formed an important part of the slaves’ protein…” M, Isaacs, 2013.

Snoek was originally called the “zeesnoek” (Sea Snoek) by Dutch colonists who arrived in the Cape in 1652.

‘It is said to have reminded them of the freshwater pike (or snoek) they found at home in the Netherlands”  – Wikipedia, 2016.

South African snoek has been part of the commercial fishing sector since the 1800s. The fishing methods that were used then were beach seining and hand lines, and these methods are still in use by fishermen today.

“Snoek, part of the history and culture of the slaves from Indonesia, was considered a delicacy; more importantly, it was an important protein source for many poor households in the Western Cape Province.”  – M, Isaacs, 2013.

The Cape Snoek has a mouth full of razor sharp teeth and can be a formidable adversary when targeted on light tackle.

“When pulled from the water it comes out snapping and it can deliver a very nasty bite which delivers a Haemo-toxic fluid. The fisherman’s’ cure is that you cut open the eyeball of the fish and use that fluid to wash the wound.” –  Hubpages, 2011.

Snoek, a low value species, is different than the commercial species but significant because it has important lessons for the new small-scale fisheries policy.

“The fishery has a substantial informal market that resides particularly in Cape Town, and it is an important source of protein for poor and working class households in the Western Cape. “ – M, Isaacs, 2013.

Snoek is the main target species for line fishers, comprising more than 50% of the line fish that is landed. It is also one of the main target species for small-scale fishers.


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