History: Robberg Seafoods was established in 1979 in Plettenberg Bay by Malcolm Craig, as a small retail fish operation.Later he was joined by the late Peter Dodds. Together they expanded the business into fishing, processing, retail and wholesale distribution as well as the export of squid and line caught hake. On retirement Peter sold out to his son, Blaine. Today Malcolm is the managing director with his partner Blaine as a director. This company has made a sizeable contribution to the local economy, as well as providing valuable foreign exchange to the country.
Fishing: The company began operations in 1979 with one ski boat, and agreements with two private boats for the supply of squid and other fish species. In 1980, recognising the potential for squid, the company was involved in pioneering the fledgling export squid industry. In 1983 operations were relocated to larger industrial premises. This enabled us to pack and freeze squid for the export market, as well as carry on our normal wholesale and retail operations.
Fishing capacity developed steadily with further acquisitions and upgrading of the fleet. Over the years the company has sold off most of the boats to make way for Black Economic Empowerment. Where possible the company has assisted these new business men with financial backing as well as offering sound advise and clerical assistance. We also assist with the quota applications when they need to be submitted.
Due to the seasonal nature of squid fishing it was our utilisation of hand line caught hake, between squid seasons, that enabled us to provide permanent employment for our factory staff and the fisherman manning our vessels. As records show, we were the only fishing company in South Africa that was utilising and developing this particular fishery. Due to us traditionally losing money on our hake catches, because of the abundance of cheaper trawled hake, we were forced to look into other markets for our superior quality line caught fish. According to the SABS, in 1991, Robberg Seafoods became the first company in South Africa to export fresh hake to the more lucrative European market, thereby initiating what has now become a major export industry.
Even then we, together with others, realised the need for increased productivity in order to make the line caught hake fishery more viable, and the idea of longlining for hake was broached. This eventually led to many meetings with the Department of Sea Fisheries and a two day workshop at Stellenbosch University which evolved into the three year South African longline experiment. Robberg Group was involved in the experiment from the beginning and was initially the only inshore component of the experiment to successfully catch it's allocation.
Records will also show that we not only initiated the line caught hake export industry, but we also caught and processed substantial quantities of squid before the squid industry was officially recognised. Robberg Group has therefore firmly established itself as an innovative and resourceful member of the South African fishing industry. As can be seen from the more recent developments in the huge growth of the fresh hake export industry, our innovative thinking has been of benefit to many.