Covering all aspects of small-scale fisheries from hook to cook:


Small-scale fisheries (SSF), encompassing all activities along the value chain, play an especially important role in food security, poverty eradication, equitable development and sustainable resource utilisation. In Africa alone, marine and inland fisheries are estimated to contribute to the food security of 200 million Africans, and the income of 10 million engaged in after-catch commercial activities. With good governance practices these fisheries are suggested to possess greater capacity to meet the growing human demand for animal protein sustainably, than terrestrial sources. Nevertheless, these fisheries continue to be ineffectively regulated and data-limited, with many regional and international efforts still promoting top-down management and control measures. In many cases, such as in South Africa, approaches such as privatised use rights and no-take reserves have proven largely ineffective in addressing sustainability concerns, and are often socially unjust, with benefits accruing to the established industry and with limited participation by fishers themselves.
{ What is needed? Progressive policies, a human rights approach to fisheries governance and development, and the co-production of knowledge that can guide more nuanced and fisher-driven arrangements to promote resource stewardship, food security, gender equity and socio-economic development }

ICTs to unlock policy implementation

With the increasing affordability of mobile devices and rapid development of internet systems and mobile apps, this ubiquitous form of communication is increasingly being used to develop sophisticated monitoring systems to address some of the world’s more pressing social and ecological challenges. Examples abound of development projects around the world that are making use of cellphones to empower local communities to monitor issues as diverse as natural resource use, community health and water quality, as well as to empower these same communities with marketing and management tools.

The pending implementation of the recently gazetted Small-Scale Fisheries Policy in South Africa has provided an impetus for similarly novel approaches to small-scale fisheries governance, and an opportunity exists to leapfrog the traditionally marginalised small-scale fisheries sector into the forefront of fisheries management through the use of innovative, mobile and cloud-based information and communication technology. The new Policy is seen as a bold step towards recognising small-scale fishers’ traditional rights and seeks to implement novel co-management approaches, decentralise resource allocation, and involve fishers in resource monitoring and compliance. At the same time, the Policy aims to enable fishers to play a more empowered role throughout the value chain.

Through the development of an integrated small-scale fisheries information-management system and mobile app suite, the ABALOBI initiative aims to enable small-scale fishers to drive and be integrated into information and resource networks – from fishery monitoring and maritime safety to local development and market opportunities.

The concept of ABALOBI was born out of brainstorming sessions between the University of Cape Town researchers, the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and several small-scale fisher community representatives, following discussions on implementation of the Small Scale Fisheries Policy and United Nations FAO Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries


Development of the ABALOBI app suite is a fisher-driven, iterative process of co-design and -development. The fisherfolk of South Africa are an integral part of our team. They direct the development process, in terms of pace and in defining needs for the platform. Close to 100 fishermen and -women are currently linked to this initiative and are actively involved in system design and testing. With full rollout, the app suite has the potential to impact the 100 000 households dependent on the small-scale fisheries sector in South Africa.

A pilot process is currently active in six sites in South Africa, with large-scale roll out scheduled for late 2016. See the particulars of the app suite here

“This is not about a team of IT people developing yet another app. ABALOBI is an initiative by the small-scale fishing communities themselves, to own the process of implementing the policies they fought for.”Dr Serge Raemaekers, Project Director

Pilot sites

Insights from our pilot programme

“With ABALOBI we can track environmental events that affect our fishing.”Ernest Titus, Small-scale fisher, Lambertsbaai, South Africa

“Everything is changing. Why should we stay the same? Look at how technology is advancing. I cannot live with the technology my grandfather used.”Theunis Newman, Small-scale fisher, Struisbaai, South Africa

“A few years ago we joked that we needed to take out accountants with us on the boats … Now we can do just that, with our smartphones and ABALOBI.”Sias Marthinus, Small-scale fisher, Struisbaai, South Africa

“With ABALOBI we can prove that we are bona fide active traditional fishers, and as a collective, we can claim our community fishing area and basket.”David Shoshola, Small-scale fisher, Lambertsbaai, South Africa