ABALOBI: ICTs for small-scale fisheries governance

Published: 21 April 2016
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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The ABALOBI initiative is a transdisciplinary research and social learning endeavour, bringing together stakeholders with traditional fishers taking centre stage. It is a participatory action research project with a strong community development component. ABALOBI, a free app/programme, is aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain, transformation in the way we produce knowledge, stewardship of our marine resources, and building resilience to climate change


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Coastal and marine spatial management
Fisheries and aquaculture
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Poaching and environmental crime
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of infrastructure
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Other targets
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
UN Small-scale Fisheries Guidelines


Cape Town, South Africa | South Africa, with several pilot communities along the coastline


Establishing a knowledge base, developing a logbook, empower fishers in value chains. Small-scale fisheries are data limited. As a result, fishers may not consider regulations derived from assessments legitimate. Stakeholders need to better understand the need for adaptive management, which can be done through catch and sales data, catch trends or oceanic and atmospheric changes. By establishing close relations with retailers, fishers can obtain better prices and explore traceability systems.


The small-scale fishers who use the platform in their daily operations, the Fisheries Authority who will the implement the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy, various Govt and non-Govt agencies promoting local development opportunities, Chefs

How do the building blocks interact?

Attaining sustainable fisheries and fisher communities, while also promoting governance reform and supporting policies, can only be achieved when accepting that many stakeholders have different interests and hold different views of the fishery. That must be the starting point. But it is also an on-going process. Awareness raising and education on a particular world view of how the fishery should be managed only holds limited benefits and in fact often tends to create tensions and conflict between stakeholders. Taking a few steps back, and creating a common knowledge base through social learning opens the door for genuine co-management, and integration of fisheries aspects that are not often tabled in decision-making processes. The two building blocks of this initiative mutually enforce and enable each other.


  1. Fishers, monitors and cooperatives have actively recorded catches and associated variables in daily logbooks and dashboards. Regular workshops have assisted in fine-tuning the recording and reporting functions and use of the dashboard. As a result of gathering data and discussing emerging trends during workshops, fishers have written letters to the Minister to call for a stop on the overexploitation of a particular fish species, others have discussed climate change related implications and suggested new adaptation responses, and others have used the data to apply for loans to purchase better safety equipment.
  2. In November 2015, the Fisheries Minister endorsed ABALOBI as the official catch management system for the implementation of the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy.
  3. Fishers in one of the pilot sites have grouped together to discuss and prepare for the implementation of the Policy, and have successfully engaged with a retailer interested in purchasing several seafood species in a Fisheries Improvement Project that will see the use of ABALOBI towards traceability, and a type of Fairtrade certification.
  4. ABALOBI now initiated a restuarant supported fishery via the MARKETPLACE app where fishers can sell their produce at a fair price, and patrons can purchase fresh fully traceable seafood.


The small fishing village of Struisbaai is one of the five areas where Abalobi is being piloted. Struisbaai is near Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, with the harbour being the pivotal point around which the village operates. Sea and weather conditions determine whether fishers are able to go out to sea and when GroundUp visited the Struisbaai the conditions were poor, meaning that there were only a few boats out at sea. At midday the boats — many looking in need of repair — began to come into shore and offload their catch: yellowfin tuna, stumpnose and some small sharks were offloaded from the boats. Niklaas Joorst, the skipper of one of the boats, is one of the five fishers in Struisbaai involved in the pilot of Abalobi. He believes that the app “will help a lot of people” if all fishers in Sruisbaai could use it, with one of the major benefits being able to set prices amongst the fishers so that they have increased bargaining power. In the bigger picture this would also mean that the information that fisheries management is gets is accurate, up-to-date and reflective of all fishers in the sea. Joorst puts all his data into the app when he comes back from sea, saying that it has helped him a lot as he is able to go back over his data every month – looking at income, expenses and his catch. The Abalobi system would make the notorious “blue books” obsolete. The “blue books” are where fishers currently record data pertaining to their catch – a process that is time consuming and often does not result in adequate feedback to the fishers themselves. “The Abalobi is a much better system [than the blue books],” says Joorst. This is something that Josias Marthinus, a catch data monitor in Struisbaai agrees with. Marthinus’s job is to record data from each fisher’s catch, such as the weight of the catch and the species, which is then given to the department. Currently he has to write everything out by hand and the data is only collected once a month. “We sit with the data the whole month,” he says, “I use many [pieces of] paper per boat.” Marthinus has now been equipped with a tablet loaded with the Abalobi app, meaning that with a couple of clicks he is able to fill in the data for each fisher’s catch. Marthinus says that the data captured on the app can help fishers secure bank loans to fix their boats and can also aid in paying taxes as they now have detailed data on their income and expenses.

Contributed by

Serge Raemaekers University of Cape Town

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