Coast KZN

03 Nov 2016

Poaching free-for-all on the North Coast

Allan Troskie (North Coast Courier)

Gill netting is an illegal and indiscriminate way of catching fish – as can be seen by these immature specimens hauled out by a gill net in the Tugela River.

The three men were caught red-handed around midnight last Thursday and taken to Newark Police station at 2am.

The North Coast’s marine wildlife is under attack from unscrupulous poachers and gill netters.
Reports have been streaming in to The North Coast Courier of sightings of gill nets across rivers in the area as well as signs of mussel poaching.

On Thursday last week Alpha Security patrol members caught three men laying gill nets in a private dam near to the Tugela River mouth.

“We have noticed a serious increase in marine poaching activities,” said Rex Hunt of Alpha Security.

“Alpha Security deals with two or three cases of poaching every weekend – and we’ve noticed an influx of vehicles coming to private beaches between Tinley Manor and the Tugela mouth,” Hunt told The Courier.

The three men were caught red-handed around midnight last Thursday and taken to Newark Police station at 2am.

By 8am the police had released the men with only a warning,” said Hunt.

It has not been possible to ascertain why the men were released as the Newark communication officer could not be reached.

Ballito local Ken Davidson said that a flight over the Tugela River Estuary on October 7 revealed that gill nets were seen being extended across the river.

The use of these types of nets, known as walls of death, are banned in all the river systems of KZN.

“This indiscriminate method of fishing removes those species that use river estuaries for spawning and causes major mortality of juvenile fish,” said Davidson.

Kevin Harris, a former Ballito resident now living in Gauteng, said he had seen what he believed was poaching near the Tongaat River mouth.

“I’ve been visiting Westbrook beach for 20 years and for the first time ever noticed big bald patches on the rocks where mussel poachers have been at work,” said Harris.

This Tuesday, Harris saw three men with large maize sacks, sticks and goggles harvesting oysters from the rocks on Westbrook beach. It is not known if the men were licensed gatherers or poachers.

“If you park your car on the bridge over the Tongaat, it’s only about 200m to the rocks where they were operating,” said Harris.

The responsibility for monitoring and patrolling KZN’s 560km coastline falls under the national department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), which took over from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on July 31, without explanation.

Ezemvelo’s Tamsyn Livingstone said Ezemvelo was responsible for policing only inside any KZN marine protected areas and for non-fishery related activities outside.

“DAFF has now taken over our responsibility for the fishery-related activities for the rest of the coast.”

Dolphin Coast Conservancy chairperson Di Jones said that poaching and gill netting are an increasing problem and DAFF may not have the staff to deal with it.

“There are 25 DAFF staff in all. Ten for Durban harbour, five for Richards Bay and the balance of 10 for the rest of KZN,” said Jones.

“DAFF do not have people on the ground with training – besides poaching, the breaching of estuaries is also worrying, which currently need Ezemvelo’s approval to take place.”

The Dolphin Coast stretch is of particular concern, as it is not a marine protected area and conservationists fear it could become a free-for-all if no authority is in place.


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