14 Apr 2014

Did you know this Easter weekend is your last chance to go crayfishing legally this season? So grab your license and gather your friends for a great boating weekend and enjoy the experience between April 18th – 21st only. The new season only starts at the end of the year (around November).

The West Coast Rock Lobster and Crayfish (WCRL) season is only open for a total of 26 days in a year - and for good reason! This valuable marine resource was becoming so overfished worldwide that authorities have had to step in with stringent rescue measures.

The South African Marine Fishery Resources department and the all relevant fishery stakeholders developed the WCRL Operational Management Plan (OMP) with a recovery target of 35% for West Coast Rock Lobster by 2021. Great news is there are good signs of recovery which bodes well for present and future generations of recreational and subsistence crayfishing sectors.

East coasters may not appreciate how this affects enthusiasts on the West Coast – especially those who indulge in netting. Crayfishing in KwaZulu Natal is only permitted when diving or gathering off the rocks. (Many restaurants and locals mistakenly call lobsters crayfish – which usually live in fresh water – while those found along our coastline are actually Rock lobsters (also known as spiny lobster).

West Coast rock lobsters are an important link in the kelp forest food chain. As carnivores, they eat mussels, urchins, starfish, abalone (perlemoen) and barnacles but they are also a target for other kelp predators such as octopuses, dogsharks, seals and humans.

The law limits catches to four per person a day, to be caught from 8am and landed by 4pm. Each one must meet the minimum size requirement of 80mm in length and may not be “in berry” (an egg-carrying female). The minimum age for license holders is 12 years. Licenses can be bought from your local post office for R92 per permit.

The best place to cook lobster is on the braai, on an open fire – basted in melted butter and parsley. Garlic can also be added for extra flavour.

Or you can heat salt water and wine in a large pot and steamed your lobsters until they are an attractive bright red colour. It’s not a good idea to put them straight into boiling water as adrenaline surges through the body, toughening the muscles and resulting in meat that is not as  succulent.

Rather submerge the lobster in fresh water for around 20 minutes (lobsters can survive only in sea water) or pierce a knife through the lobster’s head, between the eyes, killing it instantly.  Avoid freezing. For a fantastic gastronomic indulgence serve your lobster with spaghetti tossed in olive oil, chilli and parsley together with crusty fresh bread and a glass of bubbly.