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09 Feb 2015

Threat to KZN marine life

Joanthan Erasmus (News 24)

Marine life in KwaZulu-Natal is in serious danger with only a handful of the nearly 30 ­fisheries being considered sustainable, a report has found.

The document — completed by the Oceanographic Research Institute — has given the province its first detailed look at the state of fisheries and it has found that “most of KZN’s fisheries are either already being overfished or are operating at their full capacity”.

The report has warned that better ­management of our marina resource is crucial the economy of the region.

Titled “Marine And Estuarine Fisheries Along The KwaZulu-Natal Coast: An Inventory And Brief Description”, the report — a first of its kind — was released earlier this year.

The report’s editor Bernadine Everett, a ­seasoned scientist and researcher currently based at uShaka Marine, Durban, said for “some species the picture is really bleak” especially “slow growing, long-lived resident species”.

The over 100-page report compiled by some of the country’s leading marine researchers said KZN’s natural resource base is small and in “most cases is already maximally or ­over-exploited”.

“There is thus little scope for increased levels of effort and harvesting and care should be ­taken not to create false expectations among poor coastal communities.”

Of the 27 fisheries along the coastline that are as varied from longline fisheries of tuna and swordfish, hook and line to the catching of ­sardines the South Coast.

Only five fisheries are considered sustainable at their current levels of operation. A further two fisheries were considered to be stable but that the stock levels were very low compared to a couple of decades past.

Six fisheries were sustainable for some ­species but not sustainable for others and five fisheries were not sustainable at all. There were a further eight fisheries where sustainability was not known.

Only two fisheries were listed as being able to support increased effort, namely the ­beach-seine fishery for sardines and the small-scale commercial harvesting of sand prawns in Kosi Bay.

The report warned the provincial government, which is expected to roll out a small-scale fisheries policy, that the there is little scope for “increased levels of effort and harvesting”.

It said the actual economics of fisheries are “extremely complex” and although some data was available on certain fisheries, no attempt was make an estimate on the total economic impact.

Everett said while the province has “good control measures” such as mandatory licences, permits and regulations like bag and size limits, the lack of enforcement officers made it difficult to police.

“As a nation, our ability to police illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing offshore has been greatly reduced by the poor management and lack of deployment of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) offshore patrol vessels,” said Everett.

She said the fishing community in KZN often broke regulations such as the ­illegal use of gillnets, keeping undersized fish or exceeding bag limits.

She admitted to “anecdotal evidence” that there has been an increase in illegal long-lining by foreign vessels offshore.

She said DAFF’s observer programme ­designed to monitor the prawn trawl and commercial line-fishery in KZN came to an end in 2010 and the lack of data was also the result of little funding.

“Innovative solutions need to be found to secure adequate funding for research and monitoring of KZN’s fisheries,” said Everett.