Fishing for a solution to new trout listing
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.