A South African Fishing Industry Tribute to Rachel Zeelie (20 February 1965 – 7 March 2021)


The 7th of March 2021 marked the sad passing of Rachel Zeelie, long serving consultant to the fishing industry.

A South African Fishing Industry Tribute to Rachel was held at the Italian Club in Cape Town on 27 March 2021. A number of industry representatives Mike Stowe, Dr Johan Augustyn, Clyde Bodenham, Mymoena Poggenpoel and myself, as well as Sue Middleton, the DDG at Fisheries Management, put forward their praises of Rachel, an intelligent woman of integrity and honesty, who served the industry faithfully.

Rachel was born on 20 February 1965 and grew up in Crawford on the Cape Flats. She excelled at school and matriculated at Groote Schuur High School in1982 with 4 distinctions. After obtaining a government bursary she completed her BA Political Science Degree at RAU University (now UJ).

Rachel first worked for the Department of Transport in Cape Town where she was involved in the administration of the taxi permit system. In the early 1990’s, she obtained a more senior post at the Department of Sea Fisheries (now DEFF). Since this time, she has remained committed to the fishing industry.

After excelling in her career at Fisheries, in 2002 she decided there was a need for consultants in the fishing industry to assist fishermen and women with the administrative issues of their operations. She left government employment and started her own consultancy with offices in Paarden Eiland. In 2005 her best friend Karien Van Kesteren joined the consultancy (named Marine Management Services) where they serviced large and small, boat owners and processing facilities. This consultancy they ran together for the past 16 years.

The fishing industry also gave Rachel the opportunity to travel to Vietnam, Sweden and Norway where she gained experience in different fisheries and aquaculture.

Rachel leaves behind her husband Johan to whom she was married for 31 years, her daughter Natalie, and son Michael. Her other son Johnathan had previously passed away when he was 15 years old.

On top of running her own business and a busy family life, Rachel still had found the energy to study a BA Law degree in Marine Law at the UCT.

However, Rachel’s greatest attributes were her consistent virtues.   Having known Rachel since the late 90’s much of our involvement related to stressful situations where we were trying to resolve issues for clients. Regardless of the circumstances, Rachel always remained committed to serving her clients – it mattered not whether the client had a small lobster quota or a fleet of vessels, she fought equally hard for all of her clients. In fact, she always showed great empathy for those clients who had been ill-treated and needed help in the protection of their rights.

Being passionate about her work, she enjoyed getting to know the personalities of everyone she delt with and had great respect for those who had worked hard in trying circumstances.

Personally, I will always remember Rachel for her sense of humour and that hearty laugh on the other side of the phone. This laugh showed her happiness and love for life.

Thank you, Rachel, for your legacy and contribution to the industry, your love for life and your laughter…Rest in peace.