The SARSA Project (Sustainable Abalone Ranching in South Africa)

Along the coasts of Africa, small-scale-fisheries play a significant role in supporting livelihoods of more than 250 million people, contributing to food security in impoverished rural communities. In South Africa the wild abalone fishery has suffered extensive poaching causing stock collapse in many areas, with fear that some may never recover without intervention.

Abalone ranching has the potential to provide a sustainable fishery that can support local impoverished communities and boost the South African economy. However, it is a time-consuming, high-risk operation due to the investment required to obtain environmental authorisations and fishing rights.

Currently, the scientific understanding of habitat quality is constrained by lack-of-understanding of the nearshore geomorphology/hydrodynamics in high-energy shallow-reef environments. The University of Plymouth team have internationally-recognised expertise in mapping and modelling these environments and have worked within the project consortium to develop optimal seeding strategies to boost survival rates and commercial viability.

The project thus far has brought together a strong multi-disciplinary consortium in the DAC partner country, South Africa. A project kick-off symposium, held at Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth in September 2019, involved the University of Plymouth, Nelson Mandela University, Lidomix, Rhodes University, Fort Hare University and SAEON. This event provided an opportunity to share expertise, data collaboration and refine key research questions in relation to Abalone Ranching. 

In addition to this event, the University of Plymouth provided on-site training in low-cost hydrographic survey techniques and a one-day open-source hydrodynamic modelling workshop. These events were well attended by a mix of postgraduate students, academics and policy-makers and aimed at capacity building.



The Cape Recife experimental abalone ranching concession region near Port Elizabeth is currently a key focus of abalone ranching research. Lidomix (comprising Wild Coast Abalone aquaculture farm, a tactical anti-poaching task force, and dark water operation seeding and research dive support) have provided logistical support for developing workshops and training. They have also facilitated oceanographic and hydrographic data collection at Cape Recife in collaboration with the University of Plymouth team during September 2019. 

The key project partners from Nelson Mandela University and Lidomix are co-leading the project from the DAC nation. They have the practical experience and ecological expertise to understand how an improved physical understanding of the coastal environment will impact the sustainability of abalone ranching in South Africa long term. 

Benefits and impacts of project

  • ? The project has provided critical new knowledge on the physical environment, as well as building capacity in the use of low-cost/open source tools required to help secure future commercial viability of sustainable abalone ranching in South Africa.
  • 6 The project has supported disadvantaged local communities through the provision of managed harvesting rights to traditional fishing communities.
  • x Improved abalone seeding strategies for Cape Recife.
  • " There will be a potential government extension of ranching licence and funding to apply our established approach to other regions in the Eastern Cape.
  • Ä Long term international collaborations which will enable capactiy building in the form of research skills, students, scientific output and intellectual property.



The SARSA Project has been running since Spring 2019 and initial hydrodynamic modelling results were presented at the kick-off workshop in September 2019 to the project consortium.

We expect to present further findings from completed modelling and analysis of collected field observations from Cape Recife in September 2020. These results are expected to lead to two academic journal articles from the project consortium.