‘No threat’ to trout

2014-04-22 00:00

THE proposed legislation regarding invasive alien species will have no additional impact on legal farming or fishing of trout, according to Guy Preston, deputy director-general for Environmental Programmes at the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Preston spoke to The Witness following last week’s report headlined “Fight to save trout industry” concerning the initiative by the Federation of South African Fly Fishers (Fosaf) and TroutSA aimed at combating the legislation. The two bodies held a “road show” meeting at the Nottingham Road Hotel.

“It is regrettable that this lobbying is portraying the legislation as being a threat to the industry, as this is devoid of truth,” Preston said.

In February, the DEA, using the National Environmental Management: Bio­diversity Act, passed draft regulations that named 532 species they propose listing as invasive species. Two of them are trout species – brown and rainbow trout – along with 15 other fresh-water fish species.

Preston said that the proposed national legislation will actually reduce the requirement for permits for trout, compared with what is required by the different provinces at present. Rather than the blanket requirement for permits for the two trout species, a permit will be required for trout in national parks, provincial nature reserves, mountain catchment areas and forestry reserves, declared in terms of the Protected Areas Act. A permit will also be required for stocking in rivers and wetlands, and for aquaculture facilities.

Outside of these areas, trout will be exempted (i.e. will not require a permit) for all fresh-water bodies in which they are formally documented to occur.

“Permits will be considered for trout in new areas”, said Preston, “but we shall ensure that the presence of critically endangered or endangered indigenous fish species, guided by the Fish Sanctuary Areas, will be factored in to the risk assessment for any such applications.

“As with all invasive fresh-water fish species, it is virtually impossible to rid a river system of trout once they have established in the system,” Preston said. “The main focus of the legislation is to prevent invasive fish being introduced into systems in which they do not occur.”

Preston said the DEA focus should be well known to Fosaf “given that we have also said that all existing permits for the two trout species will be valid for a period of two years”.

“How can they logically claim that ‘trout will be eradicated’ when they know that we plan to ensure that all existing permits will be extended?”

Those campaigning against the legislation say they will oppose it on its legality as well as taking issue as to whether trout are invasive or not. “There is no doubt trout are invasive in this country,” said Preston. “Again I find this position adopted by Fosaf difficult to understand. Their ‘chairperson”, Ilan Lax, has publicly acknowledged that the trout species are invasive. They have a policy — which mirrors the legislation — that trout must not be introduced into fresh-water systems in which they do not occur. Why would they have such a policy, if trout are not invasive? It would be illogical.”

The period for public comment on the proposed legislation closed on April 8. Preston said he hoped the legislation would be passed “soon” and was emphatic that it serves the interests of the trout industry. “Fly fishers and trout farmers have nothing to fear from this legislation and should be working with us.

“These regulations have been work-shopped with the Aquaculture Division of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and have their support,” Preston said. “They also have the support of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s Green Listing of trout, for sale of trout in major retail stores like Woolworths and Pick n Pay.

“Ironically, this legislation will contribute to the long-term survival of the trout industry,” said Preston. “Without controls, trout waters would be more vulnerable to invasion by other invasives, such as the small-mouth bass [which eat trout], and invasive diseases remain a threat to all species.”

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