Coast KZN

16 Oct 2019

Tyres slashed as poaching escalates on the North Coast

Penny Fourie (North Coast Courier) Picture: With no proper monitoring and policing, illegal fishing and poaching has reached critical levels on the North Coast.

The complete lack of policing of fish quotas is raising fears of depletion of fish stocks and, in one known case, aggressive competition has broken out between groups of fishermen. In a blatant act of vandalism, a group of fisherman had their tyres slashed while out fishing on their kayaks in the early hours of Monday morning.

Eight vehicles parked at Salt Rock main beach parking lot were targeted. The owners discovered the damage after coming out of the water at around 7.30am. Most of the vandalised vehicles were SUV’s with roof racks for their fishing kayaks. The tyres had sidewall punctures which made them irreparable. One local fisherman who asked to remain anonymous told the Courier only the cars belonging to the fishermen were targeted.

The slashed tyre of one of the eight cars that were vandalised on Monday morning at Salt Rock beach.

“I have no doubt it was a hate crime. Things in the local fishing community have been tense after an anonymous citizen made posters ‘naming and shaming’ four local fisherman who have been accused of the illegal fishing and selling of fish.

“Someone obviously became frustrated with the illegal fishing and overfishing and decided to take extreme measures,” he said.

According to another local fisherman the provocative posters were placed in strategic positions along the beaches and were also shared on social media.

“This happened approximately three weeks ago after a number of beachgoers on Salt Main beach witnessed a couple of fisherman on their kayaks coming onto the shore with a large amount of garrick in their boats. Some of them have been operating with impunity for some time now and have no regard for the quotas of fish allowed. I think this may be in retaliation to the posters.”

According to witnesses there were about 16 garrick in the boats. The bag limit for garrick is two per person with a minimum length of 70cm.

“The saltwater fish species are under huge fishing pressure and many anglers ignore the catch and size limits. This has a big impact on fish stocks and populations,” he said.

The act of vandalism has left all eight men out of pocket as the tyres cannot be repaired.

“I have had to fork out R4500 for a new tyre,” said one victim.

Another fisherman who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said the lack of policing had created a free-for-all environment.

“There is only a limited amount of fish in our oceans, and those resources are becoming depleted.”

Since Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife lost its mandate to protect KwaZulu-Natal’s marine resources at the end of July 2016, poaching and illegal fishing along the KZN coast has increased dramatically. The decision not to renew Ezemvelo’s contract was taken by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in spite of its good track record and its many years of experience.

Conservation organisations have slammed the increase in illegal fishing and poaching and have accused DEFF of not monitoring the beaches as closely. Statistics released last year by the SA Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) on fishing in KZN paint a dismal picture. Of 1,049 fishermen who agreed to be polled, 46 percent admitted taking undersized fish, while nine percent admitted to fishing in protected areas.

The Courier approached a fisherman at Sheffield beach on Monday who was captured on camera collecting oysters and rock crabs well over the stipulated legal limit. When asked if he had a permit he and three others with him claimed not to have known that permits were necessary.

One fisherman at Tiffany’s beach said: “I fish for food for my family. I have not had a job in over a year so this is where I get a lot of our food. I don’t bother about size and bag limits as it means we will go hungry.”

Illegal fishing activity underway at Sheffield beach this week.

Dolphin Coast Conservancy chairperson, Di Jones, said the situation had become critical as there was no authority to step up and take responsibility for monitoring and compliance to ensure the sustainable use of these resources.

“Since the role of monitoring and compliance of our coastal resources was taken away from Ezemvelo, we have seen an increase in what would previously have been punishable behaviour becoming the norm, with no recourse for unethical and unsustainable practices. Unfortunately, this has even rolled out to some restaurants in our area, which are illegally buying product off individuals and teams of fishermen,” said Jones.

“A very fine balance is required for our marine resources to be sustainable into the future. Unless a solution is found very quickly to replace those duties previously tasked to Ezemvelo, who used to do such a good job on our shores, this balance is going to tip the wrong way very shortly,” said Jones.

Despite numerous attempts, DEFF had not responded to our request for comment at the time of going to press.