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Historical South African Marine Fisheries Databases (1897-1938)

An exceptional collection of South African historical fisheries data was recently re-discovered and through a collaboration between UCT and SAEON has been collated into databases to be shared with the marine science community. These records will provide unprecedented insight into historical fishery dynamics in South African waters and provide baselines, against which ecological changes during the last century can be measured.

The first, the “historical research survey database” contains the records from scientific surveys that were conducted aboard the marine research vessels of the time, the Pieter Faure (1897-1904), the Pickle (1920-1930) and the Africana, Schipa and Palinurus (1931-1949). These data were captured from published government reports that document the fisheries and oceanography-related investigations in South Africa during those periods. Biological records were collected by a plethora of gear types, including various trawl nets, seine nets, shark nets, plankton tow-nets, dredges, lobster pots and hand lines.

The second database, the “historical catch return database” contains commercial catch data, which include monthly harbour returns (1897-1906), monthly trawl landings (1921-1960) and daily linefish returns (1922-1935) from the western and southern Cape. The harbour returns were captured from tables in the same scientific reports alluded to above, while the trawl and linefish landings were digitised from archived catch return sheets that had been collected at most active harbours along the South African coast.

The datasets are lodged and maintained by SAEON. They will be made available via the data portal website, together with digital copies of the historical reports and catch return sheets from which the data were lifted:


Historical South African Marine Fisheries Databases (1897-1938)
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