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Illegal fishing activities are getting out of hand on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast as the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) struggles to monitor the coastline, reports the North Coast Courier.
Last year April, 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. They played a prime role in monitoring the coastlines for illegal fishing activities.
However, due to a lack manpower, DAFF chief control conservation inspector Dino Govender said that beaches were not being monitored as closely as before they took over.
“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. “
About two weeks ago, Ballito resident and photographer Samantha Akker Basson was outraged after having spotted a group of people fishing in the Chaka’s Rock tidal pool in Ballito, despite there being clear no-fishing signs.
“I was at the beach doing a photoshoot and a family told me there were some people fishing in the tidal pool.
“They had asked the group to please stop fishing and their response was that they should f*** off.
With the lack of monitoring on the beaches, many anglers are also not adhering to the bag limits. The overall cumulative daily bag limit is 10 fish but this amount varies depending on the species and size of the fish caught.
Umhlanga’s Nico Chinna, who often fishes recreationally on our coastline, said there were times when fishermen caught over 50 shad in a few hours.
“Ezemvelo did a great job and I never really minded getting asked to show them my licence. My family and I go deep sea fishing almost every weekend because I have given up on fishing at the beach. Some of the guys go crazy when it is shad season. It puts a damper on the sport as a whole.”
According to Tidal Tao Snorkeling’s Michelle Morris, ignoring the no fishing signs not only affects marine life but beachgoers too.
“People fish and ignore the signs that clearly state no fishing, no feeding and no collecting fish. If you fish at tidal pools leaving your hooks and lines behind, it becomes hazardous to those swimming in the pool.
“Fishing lines also smother corals which are extremely important to the ecosystem. The same goes for collecting. Each critter plays a huge role. If you take out too much or if you catch undersized fish, the ecosystem will collapse.”
Morris said the main problem was difficulty in contacting someone when illegal fishing activity is spotted.
“We need to stand together as a community and say no more! Perhaps it would be worth it to look at getting local security companies involved to assist with the law or even find someone who can help us in identifying hot spots on our coast. We have seen how the ocean can bounce back if we let it.”
However, DAFF’s Govender said they are issuing a firm warning to those who are caught engaging in illegal fishing activities.
“Ezemvelo was about educating people but we are not about that. If people are caught fishing at a protected zone they are arrested and a criminal case is opened against them. More than 30 people were arrested in Durban and surrounds during June just for fishing in protected areas. With bag limits, people are fined and charged according to the type of fish, the amount and the size.”
Govender said that starting next year, DAFF planned to have fishing officers stationed at different areas in Durban and surrounds.