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Daily Dispatch - 5 September 2008

NESTLED between the rocks near Coffee Bay that were once stripped bare by beachcombers, signs of life for the Wild Coast’s most prized delicacy – mussels – are slowly starting to return.

For eight years community members and managers have worked hand-in- hand as part of a project to re-establish mussels on the rocks.

Today, Coffee Bay’s mussel rehabilitation project feeds some 60 families and teaches the community the value of a scheme in which care for the environment reaps its own rewards in the form of a valuable protein source.

“A study done by Walter Sisulu University showed that many children in this area depend on mussels for at least 30 percent of their protein intake per day,” said project manager Jeff Brown. At one of the sites at Nqutheni, some 2km south of Coffee Bay, waves crash over well-established mussel beds.

“Before, these rocks were bare – there was nothing on them,” said Tex Kabalase, field manager for the project. “Today, people have easy access to the mussels and a way to feed themselves,” he added.

Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Coffee Bay Mussel Rehabilitation Project is described as the “poster child” for aquaculture projects along the coast. It provides jobs for 58 people ranging from harvesters to monitors and environmental trainers.

All workers are paid except harvesters, who are allowed to keep their share of the mussels. They have been granted special permission to take 5kg of mussels (about a shopping bag full) as opposed to the normal daily allowance of 30 per person . Workers are not allowed to sell their produce, in line with current legislation.

Brown said the project had been so successful that plans were in the pipeline to host a mussel festival in Coffee Bay two years from now. - By JAN HENNOP


The study about children obtaining 30% of their protein intake from mussels was actually done by a student at Rhodes University.

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