The fire and the eye: Fishers knowledge, echo-sounding and the invention of the skipper in the St. Helena Bay pelagic fishery ca. 1930โ€“1960

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In the major South African commercial fisheries the legacy of colonialism, segregation and apartheid has concentrated 'fishers knowledge' in the hands of predominantly white skippers who function as production managers for corporate capital at sea. The role of the state and corporate capital in pioneering these fisheries also means that much of this knowledge is novel, generated using prosthetic technologies, 'patente' and already incorporated into management. The paper demonstrates this through a history of the skipper in the post-Second World War pelagic fishery. The figure of the skipper emerged at a moment of crisis in the pelagic fishery in the latter half of the 1950s caused by a failure of traditional fishers knowledge to find fish and its replacement by echo-sounding. The echo-sounder revolutionised the fishery by transferring fish finding from the deck to the wheelhouse where it became the exclusive preserve of the skipper. This in turn transformed a horizontal (democratic) into a vertical (authoritarian) deck and the skipper from a co-adventurer into a production manager for corporate capital. Keywords: Skippers, St. Helena Bay, Pelagic fishery, Echosounder, Fishers knowledge.

Publication Title:

Marine Policy

Item Type:
Journal Article

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