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26 Oct 2021

200 metres of illegal nets fished out of La Mercy lagoon

James Anderson (Nrth Coast Courier) Picture: Members of Ethekwini Metro search and rescue removed the nets with the help of Ethekwini lifeguards.

Hundreds of meters of illegal fishing nets were removed from La Mercy lagoon last Friday, thwarting poachers. Following the discovery of the nets by an Umdloti paddler, Ethekwini Search and Rescue teams removed them, some 200 metres worth, on October 22. The paddler, who asked not to be named because of frequent clashes with fishermen in the lagoon area, initially spotted the nets when a cormorant was stuck on October 21. Efforts were made to paddle the nets to the side of the lagoon, but there was too much netting to make it possible.

Dozens of fish, mostly dead, were caught up in the nets alongside local birdlife.

“The fishermen spotted us from the bridge and started shouting, so we decided to leave it and reported the issue,” said the paddler.

It is suspected that the poachers were using the beach closures as a cover for the nets, hoping that nobody would notice or report them, said Umdloti resident and member of the Umdloti conservancy group, Mandy Courier.

Beaches between the Umgeni River mouth and Salt Rock are still closed, including at the La Mercy Lagoon (which feeds off of the Mdloti River) where the nets were placed.

Dozens of fish were caught in the nets, alongside local birdlife.

This is not the first time that nets have been found, often decimating fish stocks and catching local birdlife as a byproduct.

“I have lived in Umdloti for 36 years and have unfortunately seen these nets on a number of occasions. Typically they can be found after a full moon, when the poachers are able to place them overnight with easy access,” she said.

Paddlers and kite-surfers are urged to report the nets when they are spotted.

“I don’t think people really know if they are illegal, but if you see one, always report it to the cops. It might help the cops to catch the poachers in the act if they are tipped off.”