Sunday Times

Fish plan faces Cape obstacle


A proposed ban on catching indigenous freshwater fish in the Western Cape, for everyone except some private landowners, could sabotage plans to create small-scale fish production projects, critics say.

CapeNature, which has proposed the ban, says it is aimed at conserving species that are being wiped out by hungry invasives such as trout and bass.

But the Department of Agricultur­e, Forestry and Fisheries says CapeNature has no right to impose a ban because policy decisions rest with the national government.

The department is in the process of developing a policy on inland fisheries which it says is intended to “empower rural communitie­s to participat­e equitably in sustainabl­e resource use”.

As part of the policy commercial fisheries will be developed for small-scale fishermen.

“The various provinces have the responsibi­lity to implement the policy once it is sanctioned by cabinet,” the department said.

But the law proposed by CapeNature could rule out the use of nets in such fisheries, because indigenous fish would be killed along with the alien species, like carp and trout, that are sometimes targeted.

A senior freshwater fish researcher, who wished to remain anonymous, said CapeNature’s draft policy would discrimina­te against inland subsistenc­e fishers who had historical­ly been excluded from commercial fishing.

“The fundamenta­l issue is that they are in effect making the whole province a conservati­on zone, with no space for community needs,” he said.

In defence of the proposal CapeNature pointed to the unique circumstan­ces in the Western Cape where most indigenous fish are categorise­d as “near threatened”, “endangered” or “critically endangered”.

CapeNature told the Sunday Times: “There are thus no opportunit­ies for directed harvesting of indigenous fishes, a situation very different to that in many northern provinces (Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga), where indigenous fishes dominate the fish communitie­s of dams.”

The proposed exemption for private landowners was primarily a conservati­on measure to encourage them to stock indigenous fish. And it meant indigenous fish could potentiall­y be used to feed farmworker­s.

“To facilitate the occasional harvest of these privately stocked fish, a concession was made in the guidelines. Private landowners that want fishes for angling and consumptio­n purposes generally stock species such as bass, trout and tilapia under permit, as these fishes provide for good angling and eating for themselves and their farm workers.”

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