Allowing bass time to replenish is fuel for ongoing ecological debate

2012-08-18 00:00

TERRORISM has moved beyond the tall buildings and underground train systems of the world’s major cities, and has manifested as eco-terrorism. However, these terrorists aren’t as easily discernible as some airport officials may suggest and include engineers, recreational anglers, farmers and ill-informed conservation officials.

The current and upcoming dam closures have been a hot topic of late, with conversations stretching into the wee hours of the morning. As reported last weekend, Inanda is now closed to bass anglers for the duration of August, and following the upcoming Albert Falls Bass Competition, Albert Falls will be closed for the month of September.

The bass fraternity is delighted that it has succeeded in convincing Msinsi to close these dams in order to protect the spawning bass.

Environmentalists and species anglers, conversely, are not as pleased. The debate about the impact of alien invaders on indigenous species in aquatic ecosystems throughout the country is lengthy and and ongoing.

The fact that dam closures have been put in place to protect an alien species, which is believed to be harmful to many indigenous species in our aquatic ecosystems, is a matter of contention for some.

Others may argue that alien species such as bass and trout do not impact on indigenous species.

I can only speak from my own experience and limited observations. The evidence is undeniable.

Areas in which alien species are prevalent have declining or limited indigenous species. Goedetrou is an apt example, with anglers having to wander far upstream to catch many of the indigenous species once found in their numbers within the main dam.

Earlier this year, I competed in an Artlure fishing international held at Sandriver Dam, Swaziland. Bass have only recently been introduced into this system and have not yet managed to make their presence felt. The quantity and quality of the indigenous species was astounding. Almost every cast guaranteed a pan-sized redbreast or nembwe. There are 11 catchable indigenous species in this system and though these fish aren’t always the best fighting fish, they can be a lot of fun when fishing with light tackle.

Environmentalists are on the lookout for those who illegally introduce alien fish into river systems and dams.

These eco-terrorists unknowingly exacerbate the perceived problem caused by alien species by placing and promoting fish that occur outside of their natural environments.

Another question to consider when considering whether alien fish have a place in local aquatic systems is whether a man-made structure such as a dam can even be considered a natural environment. Just as we humans have had to adapt to an ever-changing environment, so will animals, plants and fish have to adapt.

Bass have been present in local systems for a number of years and they continue to survive in an environment that they may not have originated from, but within which they are able to thrive. Many trout fisheries, on the other hand, require regular stocking.

An enormous amount of spending is generated by deep-sea angling, bass angling, bank angling, fly-fishing and species angling. The economics of angling cannot be ignored when determining what is in the best interests of the environment.

There must be one common goal whichever side of the argument that you find yourself on. We need to protect the natural resources that we have now.

The dam closures that have been put in place will not only benefit bass — other species will also benefit from this period of reprieve over their spawning season. Some things are best saved for behind closed gates.

After all, which of us would enjoy a bearded burly fisherman barging in during our most intimate of moments?

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