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  • William Steel

Photo Story - South Africa: Catch of the day

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

St. Helena Bay, known as Agterbaai by locals, is a small settlement renowned for being the bay Vasco da Gama first set foot in South Africa circa 1497. Named Bahia de Santa Helena after the Roman empress Saint Helena.


Fed by the nutrient-rich Benguela Current, St Helena Bay is one of the world’s prime fishing areas. As a result Its waters provide a valuable livelihood for the local community, as well as the dolphins and Southern Right Whales which enjoy the calm waters.


The town has turned fishing into a thriving industry. Everything from casting the lines to canning the produce is done along the shores of St Helena Bay. It now boasts the highest concentration of fishing processing factories in South Africa.


I spent a day photographing this process on a recent trip to St Helena.



Locals patiently wait for the fishing boats to arrive in the harbor, eager to assess the days catch and bargain to purchase fresh fish.

A bustle of activity as the boats begin to offload their catch.

The process of gutting, cleaning, and preserving begins. Seagulls flock to both fishing boats and docks alike when the fishermen come in from sea. The other side of this photograph is vastly different from the serenity of this scene. Hawkers holler fish prices while women gut fish and seagulls scavenge whatever they can.

A young boy drums up customers.

Fish lay sprawled out, cleaned, and ready for sale.

The process comes full circle as fishermen buy the waste product for bait.

Golden shoes.

The larger boats offload their catch at the processing factory, where it is all hands on deck to clean and gut the fish.

The fish that isn't sold in the market is processed, a nearly complete women affair. Stepping into the fish factory by the docks is like arriving in a different world. The white aprons and boots worn by the women are a stark contrast to the dimly lit environment. They’ve perfected lifting and heaving fish from work station to work station as if it’s an art.

Dappled light illuminates the blood soaked white aprons in the dark.

The working day is done.

Observational documentary style photography is something completely new to me, I would love to know what you think! Feel free to see more of my images from South Africa and across the world in my Travel section of my website.

- William

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