The fishing village of Kassiesbaai is at the core of the Waenhuiskrans Cultural Landscape, a Grade 1 National Site. It is the only surviving historical fishing village in South Africa.
The area around Arniston has a long and interesting history. Middens and other archaeological evidence suggest that people lived in the area from time to time from as long as three thousand years ago. In more recent times the evidence suggests that there was at times interaction between the intermittent nomadic communities and shipwreck survivors. Around 1850 five families settled in the area to fish. By 1870 they were joined by another thirty families. In 1905 the landowners told the fishing community to go, but the fishing community protested in a petition to the then Cape Governor General. In a settlement that followed the farmers sold ten morgen to the community for the token price of one shilling and Kassiesbaai was established. In 1932 the Wagenhuiskrantz Vissersunie (Fishermen’s Union) was established as a vehicle to hold the title deed of the communal property. In the 1970s conservationists and the fishing community joined hands when the local authority wanted to demolish the then badly neglected village and move the community. The village was declared a national monument and was renovated.
Limitations on fishing activities have seen a dwindling in income derived from this source by the community. Government-allocated fishing quotas have become smaller and more difficult to come by as fish stocks became depleted. Fishermen without a source of income in a small village far removed from industrial infrastructure have little alternative access to income. Out of 1 400 adults in the village, less than 100 derive a sustainable income from fishing now. Some 300 have some form of income as housekeepers or as employees at the hotel or at guesthouses. A small number of the residents work in permanent positions away from Arniston. Others work periodically on various local government and other projects.