Three hundred years ago Paternoster was known as St Martin’s Bay and the area was rich in wildlife that included hippo and leopard on the land and the marshes to the east, stretched for miles. The rocks and offshore islands were rich in guano and penguin colonies thrived.

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The ancestors of the coastline were the Strandlopers who roamed the shore lines and gathered food from the sea to sustain themselves.

Over time new folk settled in the region and the evolution of a town named after ‘Our Father’ (Paternoster) grew, founded on fishing and the Strand culture. Guano was mined for its rich qualities as a fertiliser and whales were hunted leading to the establishment of the Saldanha Bay whaling station. These were prime examples of man’s industrial appetite for exploiting natural reserves.

Amongst the selection of fish traditionally consumed by inhabitants on the Cape West Coast, was Crawfish. This known by another name over the seas, where it was a delicacy highly valued and sought after in foreign markets. Renamed the West Coast Rock Lobster by a local entrepreneur to gain access to European markets, this led to the Crawfish gold rush; to catch, process and sell as much as possible. Unusual fishing techniques included using donkey and penguin meat as bait. The penguin colonies began to suffer as a result and the abundant penguin colonies in and around the Paternoster coastline started to diminish. Today they have all but disappeared.

Regulations in the twentieth century led to quotas being issued to West Coast Rock Lobster processors and so began efforts to manage the industry.

In 1930’s the Paternoster Vissery was established, originally as a Redro fishery factory. It became one of many commercial concerns to establish themselves in Paternoster and over the years remains the only facility involved with fishing West Coast Rock Lobster.

Due to the depletion of the rock lobster stocks along the Cape West Coast, we recognised the need to adapt and to look to new ways to sustain our community’s historical livelihood.

This is why, we have created The Crayfish Wharf as part of our commitment to:

  • Developing alternative sustainable livelihoods through tourism for all in Paternoster,
  • Managing the stocks that remain, developing aquaculture and,
  • As a way to educate all who visit our part of the world, about Our Heritage with the Sea.

We hope you enjoy your visit with us.

Paternoster Archive Photo