Confusion over government’s proposal for listing of trout

2014-05-21 00:00

CONFUSION reigns on the proposed listing of trout as invasive species, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

The DEA says this confusion has been “fuelled by a campaign led by an anti-regulation lobby associated with the Federation of South African Flyfishers [Fosaf] and Trout SA and provocative articles in the Complete Fly Fisherman and various newspapers”.

The subject of the confusion regards the implications of the proposed listing of brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) as invasive species in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Nemba).

“There is no threat to the continued operations of existing, legal trout industries as a result of the proposed regulations and listing of trout as invasive species,” said the DEA. “Contrary to unsubstantiated and absurd claims that the department is intent on ‘destroying the trout industry’ and ‘eradicating trout’, government agrees that these trout species must be exploited fully within the systems they have already invaded.”

According to the DEA, this legislation “is important for the trout industry, to stop ‘trout waters’ being invaded by fish species that out-compete trout.”

The DEA said it supports a growth in aquaculture using trout and that government is “not intent on ‘destroying this multi-billion rand industry’ and the associated jobs, as has been disingenuously claimed by the anti-regulation lobby”.

Responding to the DEA statement, Fosaf national chairperson Ilan Lax said that Fosaf has always supported the principle of regulating the trout industry in South Africa.

“In this spirit we have been in discussions with the provincial conservation authorities and the DEA since our formation in March 1986. To suggest that Fosaf is anti-regulation is simply not true.”

However, Lax said that while Fosaf had asked for the DEA’s reasons for the listing of trout as invasive, these had not been forthcoming. “Despite agreement to provide these in line with the legal duty to do so, the DEA has failed to produce these.”

Lax said Fosaf remains committed to transparently engaging the DEA to achieve a workable set of principles and regulations that can achieve the DEA’s stated intention of supporting a growth in aquaculture using trout. “We urge the DEA to reopen communication with us — something they broke off without explanation.

“To the extent that there are differences in legal interpretation, we have consistently requested discussion around these matters but have been told bluntly ‘We will see you in court!’”

Regarding the DEA’s claim that this “legislation is vital to the trout industry, if together we are to stop ‘trout waters’ being invaded by invasive fish species that will themselves out-compete trout”, Lax said Fosaf was not aware of any basis for giving special protection to an invasive species. “Fosaf has never asked for special status for trout in relation to other species. We argue that if trout are beneficial and useful they cannot be invasive as defined in Nemba and therefore should be treated as other useful aliens.”

TroutSA welcomed the DEA’s statement that it does not want to harm the trout industry. “However, Trout SA is concerned that despite this sentiment the DEA has not involved these industries in any of the planning processes that inform its decision to declare trout as invasive,” said Ian Cox, a member TroutSA’s convening committee.

“It is also unfortunate that the DEA has sought to play the man rather than the ball by demonising the messenger. Our arguments are extensive and closely reasoned. They merit a similar response.”

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