Fish­ing for a so­lu­tion to new trout list­ing

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - SHEREE BEGA

AN AGREE­MENT thrashed out be­tween the trout in­dus­try and the gov­ern­ment ap­pears to have hit trou­bled wa­ters over the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs’ in­sis­tence that trout be listed as in­va­sive across South Africa.

This is the as­ser­tion of Roger Krohn, the chair­per­son of Aqua­cul­ture SA, in a re­cent let­ter ask­ing Op­er­a­tion Phak­isa’s steer­ing com­mit­tee to in­ter­vene in the “re­pu­di­a­tion of the agree­ment and the whole Phak­isa process” over the pro­posed amend­ments to the trout reg­u­la­tions that will soon be pub­lished for com­ment.

In the agree­ment, trout would not be listed as an in­va­sive species where it was al­ready estab­lished.

“This mat­ter needs to be fur­ther es­ca­lated be­cause it seems the ear­lier in­ter­ven­tion at di­rec­tor gen­eral level has clearly failed,” wrote Krohn.

He ac­cuses Dr Guy Pre­ston, the deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grammes at the depart­ment, of reneg­ing on the agree­ment, en­dorsed by the cabi­net.

In 2014, rain­bow trout and brown trout were gazetted as in­va­sive species by the depart­ment, but the “win-win com­pro­mise” was reached in July that year dur­ing the Phak­isa Ocean Labs con­fer­ence held in Dur­ban.

Op­er­a­tion Phak­isa, launched by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in 2014, fo­cuses on “un­lock­ing the eco­nomic po­ten­tial” of South Africa’s mar­itime re­sources.

Krohn’s col­league, IIan Lax, of the Fed­er­a­tion of South­ern African Fly­fish­ers (Fosaf) ar­gues the list­ing is “not cor­rect in SA, nei­ther from a le­gal stand­point nor sci­en­tif­i­cally… In fact, in many re­spects trout have been beneficial in South Africa cre­at­ing jobs and un­der­pin­ning the economies of many towns such as Dull­stroom, Un­der­berg, Himeville and Rhodes”.

In Pre­ston’s let­ter, he writes that even though the com­pro­mises were reached, “the depart­ment has con­tin­ued to re­ceive le­gal chal­lenges from cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with Fosaf and Trout South Africa, as to the le­gal­ity of reg­u­lat­ing the two trout species as alien species in the ‘green ar­eas’ in the man­ner pro­posed.

“This threat fi­nally led to the depart­ment seek­ing le­gal opin­ion, which con­cluded the op­tion that poses the least le­gal risk is that trout be reg­u­lated as Cat­e­gory 2 in­va­sive species for the whole coun­try, with a pos­si­ble pro­vi­sion for self-ad­min­is­tra­tion op­tions within the per­mit con­di­tions.”

The depart­ment has la­belled Krohn’s claims as ab­surd. “It’s claimed that DEA and its co-reg­u­la­tors are in­tent on de­stroy­ing trout aqua­cul­ture and erad­i­cat­ing trout.”The no­tion that the gov­ern­ment is in­tent on erad­i­cat­ing trout is un­true.

“It’s the in­ten­tion to grant long-term per­mits to estab­lished aqua­cul­ture fa­cil­i­ties and there are no plans to ex­tir­pate trout in any rivers.”

In 2014, a Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity economist cal­cu­lated the trout in­dus­try con­trib­uted R1.876 bil­lion to GDP and sus­tained em­ploy­ment to over 13 000 peo­ple.

“Any at­tempt to list trout as in­va­sive will re­sult in a le­gal chal­lenge as there is no ba­sis in law that jus­ti­fies trout be­ing listed as in­va­sive in South Africa. Fur­ther­more, the con­se­quences for com­mu­ni­ties who rely on trout-based tourism will be dire,” said at­tor­ney Ian Cox.

Lax be­lieves the gov­ern­ment has “enough fish to fry deal­ing with real is­sues. The prob­lem is we’re deal­ing with purists and the fact that there are alien species in South Africa brands their back­sides”.

The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs says the nega­tive im­pacts of trout need to be man­aged.

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