On the 3rd October 23 learners ,all bursary recipients, were taken to the Abagold Factory in Hermanus. Miss Odile Petersen, our Emil Weder liaison teacher, and Mrs. Marilyn Barker accompanied the learners.
The educational outings have a twofold purpose. Firstly to broaden the world view of these severely disadvantaged learners some of whom rarely leave the rural Riviersonderend valley. Secondly to enable us in this informal environment to get to know the learners and for them to become comfortable in our presence and to find out why and what the Fund is about.
The Abagold Factory was chosen to illustrate how sensitive bio-systems are by showing them one in the Western Cape that is under severe threat. Abagold Factory breeds abalone (Haliotis midae), or perlemoen as the locals call them, for the gourmands of the world. Abalone is a highly prized delicacy and supposed aphrodisiac in the Far East and is very lucrative.
The learners found out that an abalone or sea snail is an invertebrate animal called a mollusca.
Abalone is scarce due to their selective lifestyle and because they are poached. They are only found where there are cold water kelp and other seaweeds which they live on. Their sex life is also very different as they only breed for two weeks, when the moon is full, in spring when they climb up on rocks to mate. A male takes five and a female three years to come to sexual maturity. They are slow-growing and take eight to nine years to reach the minimum legal size of 114mm shell breadth before they were collected in the wild. In South Africa it is now illegal to take abalone from the sea. Abugold harvests their abalone at five years when they are anesthetised, killed and canned.
Abalone are poached by people in the local communities and are either paid or given drugs by large syndicates. The large sums paid make it worth the risks of fines and/or imprisonment especially for the poor. The role of abalone in the ecological balance of the kelp forests was emphasised and these forests are vital as they act as a nursery for the fish on which the local fishing industry depends.
The learners showed their interest by asking many questions.
Lunch was enjoyed watching whales off the new harbour and getting to know each other.