In just 14 years, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) has been successful in working across the supply chain to positively transform large parts of the seafood industry in South Africa.

The easy-to-use WWF-SASSI “traffic light” guide is well known and many seafood-lovers use it regularly to make responsible choices. Yet Gauteng, the second-largest seafood market in the country, has remained an enigma – a tough crab to crack.

In landlocked Joburg, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the source of our seafood.

To help reel in a new Joburg cohort of supporters for sustainable seafood, WWF-SASSI and the conservation education initiative Explore4Knowledge plotted a unique experiential road trip. From turf to surf, the trip was designed to inspire appreciation of our oceans and create awareness around unsustainable seafood consumption and the impacts of various forms of fishing.

They couldn’t do it without some talented masters of gastronomy. Enter two young, dynamic and up-and-coming Gauteng-based chefs, Freedom Khanyile and Terror Lekopa.

The chefs and conservationists made the seven-hour drive from Soweto to tropical Kosi Bay in northern-most KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in a convoy of three 4x4s. Neither of these two Soweto-born chefs had visited this lush and exotic coastline before. Along the way, both Freedom and Terror got their first taste of the importance of sustainable choices when deciding what seafood to buy and serve.

The warm Indian Ocean welcomed them at Kosi Bay where the chefs observed old artisanal forms of fishing and learnt how fish can be caught sustainably. Both chefs also bravely donned a snorkel and mask for the first time to see the magical underwater world for themselves.

Then they headed to Sodwana Bay, where the chefs experienced another “first”, a dive in open ocean to explore the reefs and fish species of the KZN coast. While camping in Sodwana Bay, they got to show off their culinary passion when pitted against WWF-SASSI ambassador Chris Kastern in a sustainable seafood “braai-off” that featured delicious, exquisitely presented green-listed mussels and hake.

Further south towards Durban, they stopped at the mangroves that act as a natural safe haven in which young fish can grow. There they saw that too often these water-dwelling trees are removed en masse with no consideration for the detrimental impact on our sea life.

In Durban, the chefs visited uShaka Marine World, where they saw turtles and heard about the issue of “bycatch” or accidentally caught species. Over a delicious green-listed dinner the chefs exchanged ideas with WWF-SASSI trailblazer chefs Jackie Cameron and Constantijn Hahndiek – true ocean champions who go above and beyond to promote sustainable seafood.

At the end of the journey, it was clear that the experience had been life-altering for the two inland chefs, both of whom committed to becoming champions for our oceans. There’s more work to do, but with champions like Freedom and Terror in tow WWF-SASSI has the ingredients for a winning recipe for change.

Re-trace the chefs’ journey on social media: #Soweto2Sodwana

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