MUSEUM - Fishermans Rest
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South African Fisheries Museum Velddrif

The South African Fisheries Museum was relocated from the Hout Bay Harbour to Velddrif/Laaiplek in December 2009.

The museum is unique in that it highlights the history of the fishing industry from the time of whaling and whalers on the West Coast to present-day pelagic fishing and lobster catches. The Museum demonstrates the resource, harvesting of the resource and fish-processing methods, as well as the local history, which is inextricably connected to fishing in the past and present on the West Coast.

The museum is situated in the Laaiplek Hotel grounds adjacent to the fishing harbour at Velddrif. It is housed in a building dating from the late 1800’s built by Johan Carel Stephan, a member of the well-known Stephan family of St Helena Bay. Johan Carel owned the entire area known as Laaiplek (Loading Place) during the late 1800’s.

The museum building was part of the Johan Carel Stephan’s trading empire at Laaiplek close the mouth of the Berg River of that time. Johan Carel Stephan also owned a fleet of approximately 80 cotters, manned by many of the ancestors of the present-day Italian families still resident in Velddrif and Laaiplek.

These small vessels plied the waters of the Berg River trading with the grain farmers of the Moorreesburg area. Grain was transported down-stream to Laaiplek. At a mill that was situated next to the present day museum, grain was milled and sold to the locals of the town and environs. Stephan also owned sea-going vessels that transported goods and fish from the trading post to Cape Town.

He commissioned the building of a vessel which he named the “Alabama”. This is believed to be the Alabama referred to in the folksong “Daar kom die Alabama”(not the American Confederate ship)., The words ‘Nooi,Nooi dit rietkooi Nooi’ substantiate the fact that Stephan traded in thatch (riet) from the Sandveld, which he sent to Cape Town by sea as a roofing material for new buildings. Johan Carel Stephan was responsible for establishing commerce in Velddrif, Laaiplek.

A visit to this unique museum is a worthwhile experience. Visitors will receive a warm welcome. They can participate in lively and informative presentations on local history as well as learning about the pioneering of fishing industry.

Velddrif is where the famous Berg River meets the Atlantic Ocean.