Fish farm fights to remain afloat

The market for fish is insatiable – but that’s cold comfort for fish farmer André Bok as he struggles to keep afloat Pure Ocean East London, the fish farm in the Industrial Development Zone.

The business has been operating in a pre-feasibility phase for three years and requires financial input for some considerable time as it overcomes the technical challenges of growing its dusky cob to a marketable size.

POEL chief executive André Bok, however, says the problem was rooted in the challenges of “developing a new industry in a new environment with a new species”.

Bok said this week that the ELIDZ had done “a fantastic job” in accommodating and facilitating the investment in aquaculture.

He said funding of the sector was a problem for all participants, given the challenges of stabilising production within timeframes that satisfied investors. Government was supportive but, understandably, had to be circumspect in the extent to which it backed individual investments.

Rather than being fully operational to serve the market directly, Pure Ocean currently supplies juvenile dusky cob to other fish farms, due to both the need to improve cashflow and the difficulties of growing its fish to marketable lengths.

The ELIDZ said it believed Pure Ocean had “great potential. They have succeeded in proving the technical viability of the operation”.

The national Department of Trade and Industry administers an aquaculture incentive scheme and the ELIDZ said it had played a role in lobbying for a more supportive environment to develop the sector.

“We have also linked the company to potential private investors and positive outcomes are yet to materialise,” the IDZ said. —

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