Shell-shocked: SA's lobster catchers suffer coronavirus fallout

On the coast of South Africa's Western Cape, lobster catchers have become unexpected victims of the global coronavirus epidemic.


"The factory don't want to take our fish, there's no market for our fish."

Last year lobster catchers like Lorraine Brown landed 1,084 tons of west coast lobster - and 95% of that haul was exported to China.

But last month, as part of measures to contain the outbreak, China halted seafood imports - leaving the local lobster industry without its main source of cash and sending prices plummeting.


"Local(s) want to give us a 125 rands a kilo. They marketers gave people that caught before the coronavirus, they gave people about 340 rands a kilo - now that is a great amount that I'm gonna be lost with."

Brown holds a permit to catch 203 kilograms per season.

The government has previously restricted the daily catch limits and number of fishing days in a bid to restore natural crayfish stocks threatened by poaching and overfishing.

But Brown wants authorities to intervene by helping to find new markets and allowing the fishermen to catch at the weekend.

The West Coast Rock Lobster Association, which represents offshore and near-shore rights holders, said the outbreak is causing a direct financial loss to rights holders estimated to be in excess of 257 million rand, or $17 million.