Coast KZN

31 Aug 2018

Illegal fishing is ‘out of control’

Allan Troskie (North coast Courier) Picture: Fishermen at Chakas High Rock above Thompson's Bay.

Illegal fishing and overfishing has long been a problem in KZN.

Illegal fishing and overfishing, which have worsened in the years since Ezemvelo Wildlife stopped policing the seashore, now appear to be completely out of control.

Recently the Courier approached more than 50 fisherman between the Chaka’s High Rock and Casuarina Beach at Westbrook and only two were able to produce a licence.

None of the anglers were were willing to speak about what or how much they catch and whether or not they adhere to bag limits.

One man at the Tongaat River mouth, who did not want to be identified, said: “I fish for food for my family. I don’t have a job so this is where I get a lot of our food. I don’t really care about size and bag limits if it means I have to go hungry.”

Statistics released earlier this month by the SA Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) on fishing in KZN paint a worrying picture.

Of 1049 fishermen who agreed to be polled, a scary 46 percent admitted taking undersized fish, while nine percent admitted fishing in protected areas.

SAAMBR’s stats show most fishermen were only inspected an average of 3.7 times over the course of 12 months. A staggering 84 percent of the fishermen polled said they had observed a decline in catches and 40 percent believed this was due to overfishing.

A further 23 percent blamed trawling activities, 19 percent blamed pollution and 16 percent blamed climate change.

Longtime conservationist Clive Watson, a Ballito resident and member of the Amatikulu Conservancy, told the Courier illegal fishing and overfishing has long been a problem in KZN.

“I remember when shad fishing was still uncontrolled and people would come home with bags and bags of shad. Eventually it was noticed that this was having a serious effect on populations and a limit was introduced.”

Watson said the man with a rod definitely had a major impact on fish populations.

“Years ago environmental officers had the power to actually arrest people on the beach without a fishing licence.

“I remember once seeing a person catching shad, burying them under the sand and then moving on down the beach to keep fishing. Unfortunately for them they were spotted and had their 4×4 and their caravan confiscated.”

He said environmental officers had had their teeth pulled in the fight to police fishing on the beaches.

“There is basically no control at the moment.”

In April 2016, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s contract with DAFF to look after the coastlines was terminated after 32 years. Ezemvelo was responsible for maintaining wildlife conservation areas and biodiversity in KZN.

However, due to a lack manpower, DAFF chief control conservation inspector Dino Govender said that beaches were not being monitored closely.

“Ten fishery control officers are rotating from East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. They cover the Durban area.

“We currently work on an intelligence plan where we draw up our action plan and monitor certain areas according to information we receive from the public.

“So if we receive reports of illegal fishing in the Ballito area, we will have our officers in that area making arrests. The officers are rarely walking around on the beach but they do go around the shorelines.”

To report illegal fishing activities contact Govender on 072 231 6070.

The skiboat fraternity, however, do exercise some control over fishermen launching from registered sites.

The Ballito Skiboat Club’s Mike Pearce said the club does not allow people to launch from their slipway without the necessary licences and permits.

“All members of the club are affiliated with the Natal Deep Sea Association, which requires fishing and skipper’s licences.”