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Piles of mussels, some old, some new, cover the floor in the dune forest at Eytie Point. via North Coast Courier

South Africa - Mass Mussel Harvesting Leaves North Coast Beach Rocks Bare

In the dune forest clearings between Zinkwazi and Nonoti, massive piles of mussel shells, several metres wide, and as much as half a metre deep in some places, can be found.

At Eytie Point, between Zinkwazi and Nonoti villages, Nonoti residents have taken a great liking to the native mussel stocks, stripping the rocks bare of life in many places.

Poverty and the recent Covid-19 pandemic may be partially to blame, but with no conservation officers on hand to check bag limits over-exploitation of the coastline continues without restraint.

In the dune forest clearings, massive piles of mussel shells, several metres wide, and as much as half a metre deep in some places, can be found. Three separate clearings in the dune forest illustrate similar shell-dumping sites.

Every spring low the illegal mass harvesting can be witnessed.

Spades and cane knifes are used to unselectively scrape the rocks bare, taking both small and large mussels alike. Mussels are taken up into the dune forest in large drums and maize sacks where they are boiled over a series of fires.

Once cooked, the mussels are shucked and the shells are discarded.

The edible content is transported away from the site, and the harvesters return to the rocks for more.

Harvesters, transporters and cooks seem to work in an organised fashion. One harvester, who refused to give her name, claimed that lockdown had left them no choice but to harvest from the ocean.

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